Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Dear Frankie" & the wonder of agony aunts

"It may not be your problem today, but it could be someday"

Given how irresistible I find the "agony aunt" page of my favourite Sunday newspaper and the comfort I gain from knowing others have worries besides me, the Five Lamps Theatre Company production of "Dear Frankie" was one not to be missed.

Frankie Byrne was an iconic agony aunt who broadcast to a massive listenership on Irish radio from 1963 to 1985. Those of us of a certain age will remember her drawling, lived in voice, each lunchtime as she read and answered the personal problems of the nation. Practical advice was doled out on problems that ranged from interfering mothers-in-law to reluctant-to-commit boyfriends. Advice was consistently followed by a Frank Sinatra song.

What made Frankie's personal story stand out was the extent to which her personal life was filled with as many problems as she spent her days solving for others. A long running and ultimately heartbreaking affair with a high profile married man and battles with alcoholism dogged her life and the production deftly slipped in and out between the two sides of Frankie, allowing us to hear her dole out her rounded, streetwise advice while her mind was hijacked with personal demons.

Well worth a look, especially for its bird's eye view on the alternate side of an agony aunt and to highlight how the experience gained from living life to the full was harnessed through the medium of her daily radio programme to give comfort and sensible, practical advice to others.


Debbie said...

Sounds amazing Mari. Hearing of her own struggles makes me warm to her - bet it qualified her to offer better advice. Your familiarity with Frankie must have made the whole thing even more poignant. Debbie

Mari G said...

Hi Debbie
Yes, it was pretty fascinating to hear the old radio programme on the stage & all the memories it evoked for me, running alongside the portrayal of Frankie's chaotic personal life.
Nice to hear from you x

Words A Day said...

I loved dear Frankie, I was pretty young so I thought it was quite racy. Her voice was so distinctive - I can hear her now, Dear Frankie, My boyfriend and I...!
(Is this a play about her life?)

Mari G said...

Hi Words A Day
Her voice was drawling and unmistakeable and Frankie was very well played by Nuala Hayes & yes, it was about her life.
Lovely to hear from you & I really enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

I still remember her smokers voice on the airwaves and remember watching the documentary on her troubled life on TV. Hopefully I'll see the play.

Mari G said...

Hi Olive
I didn't realise there was a documentary on telly...mmm, must check it out.
Her voice was pretty unforgetteable alright...didn't expect you to remember her though..Ahem!
Nice to hear from you!