Brighton Fringe 2015
An East End gangster and his ‘friend’ await an irrevocably life-changing visit. Chaos ensues as Frank sends a boy to do a man’s job.
Frank Sent Me, from Em-Lou Productions is a very dark comedy, a three-hander that takes place in the hours before a gangland execution. These are three people, in different ways, whose options are running towards zero.
With a past of loyal service to his hoodlum master, Frank, it is now the turn of the killer, Howe, to face to bullet in the back of the head. His devoted, lover-partner, Wallace, and an inept, all too human rookie executioner, create the opportunity for some marvellous dialogue (penned by Julian Poidevin) and plenty of rumination on those last hours and the mind of the criminal meglomaniac. The clock ticks by, the hour of "going through the door" is nigh and what unfolds is an hour of deliciously torturous waiting and delaying.
The performances never miss a beat, the timing is near perfect. As the narrative unfolds, what feels almost like an unbelievable scenario becomes increasingly engaging and credible and we, the audience, become as tied into the story as the characters are trapped in their situation. There is no running away from the dealer in death – be it the unforgiving head of a gang or the Grim Repear. There’s a despair running through the play that never suffocates the comedy. This was the genius of Galton and Simpson in Steptoe or Hancock and high praise goes to Poidevin for capturing the same quality.
The play is simply staged – just a sofa. We are in a living room and there’s a problem here of not having a set. This is a play that features doors – doors out to a kitchen/toilet on one side and an even more important door to the outside world and to a meeting with mortality. What we have, through the decision to stage so simply is actors heading on and off through parted black curtains. Budgets can be tight but this dilutes a little of the power of the piece. Two framed doors might be worth considering.
It’s the blend of small talk and graphic speculation, the dark and the tender, the inevitability and the mystery that give Frank Sent Me such texture and depth. A comedic study in the anatomy of execution as well as how we say goodbye, how we wait, and limits of what we are prepared and able to do, it all blends together into an excellent hour at the Basement. Fine performances from all three actors who can do serious and humorous in equal measure, they deliver the script with full command and control. It’s a tight performance that has enough give in it to let the humanity of each struggling soul come out. Funny, moving, disturbing and enthralling. Highly recommended.