Binchy Barrett Blount Brilliant
Maeve Binchy’s 2010 novel, “Minding Frankie,” is given something of an overhaul in Shay Linehan’s lively adaptation in which reformed alcoholic, Noel Lynch, sets about raising the infant Frankie after her mother Stella dies shortly after giving birth. Shifting focus from a tale embedded in a sense of community, where American Emily rallies a tribe of neighbours to help Noel raise the orphaned child, to a tale focusing more on an individual defying the odds, Linehan’s version sees Emily and her tribe pretty much relegated to the background. Instead, Noel’s second chance at life dominates as he fights against himself, his addiction, and a self-righteous, overly zealous social worker Moira, a woman with her own hidden agenda. In the end, the best interest of the child might be all that matters, but what that might look like becomes a battleground in this heartfelt and heart-warming production.
Initially, Linehan’s script takes some time to land and pick up momentum, and to make explicitly clear that events are being recalled rather than happening in real time. This makes for an unsteady opening and some interesting scenarios. None more so than when it seems the older Noel discovers he’s the father of Frankie, as a result of a forgotten fling with the dying Stella during a music festival several months back. It all might stretch credibility at times, and border nearer to the safe and sentimental rather than genuine sentiment on occasion, but once Linehan hits his stride he delivers pure Binchy gold, in a production brimming with her warmth, wit and wisdom.
Director Peter Sheridan does an exemplary job, with pace perfectly pitched throughout, and scenes wonderfully realised and balanced. If the little infant herself doesn’t make an appearance, a simple set design by Ciara Murane accentuates Frankie’s child-like presence, crafting a playschool world inhabited by those tasked with caring for her. Playing her primary carers, Steve Blount and Clare Barrett, as Noel and Moira, as well as a range of other characters, simply surpass themselves. Blount is magnificent as the endearingly delightful Noel, with Barrett being simply remarkable as the Galway girl with a deep wound and a deeper sense of family.
Funny, moving, and masterfully done, “Minding Frankie” is a thoroughly enjoyable experience that will unquestionably put a spell on you. If “Minding Frankie” is not what some might consider serious theatre, it's seriously theatrical and seriously good fun. The equivalent of a large 99 with two flakes and all the raspberry sauce you can hope for, “Minding Frankie” is an unadulterated, unapologetic pleasure. So, take a night off from your healthy diet and go indulge yourself on two extraordinarily good performances. Binchy. Barrett. Blount. Brilliant.
“Minding Frankie” by Maeve Binchy, adapted by Shay Linehan, directed by Peter Sheridan and presented by Breda Cashe, runs at The Gaiety Theatre until June 17th
For more information, visit The Gaiety Theatre