Nuala Hayes brought the radio life and times of The Woman’s Hour, agony aunt, Frankie Byrne back to vivid life on the stage of The Theatre Royal in Dear Frankie.
A capacity audience right up into the Gods were enthralled and a little saddened by Niamh Gleeson’s evocative play that renewed happy memories of Radío Eireann and the Jacob’s sponsored programme.
Byrne was a PR expert in an emerging Ireland who moved into radio and never seemed to look back as she dispensed relationship advice that had hundreds of thousands listening to her sharp and often humorous views on life.
As in so many things from that black and white world, her confidence and decisiveness masked a confused personal life when she had a child for radio and television star Frank Hall who was already married.
A long first act got a bit repetitive but the audience enjoyed hearing the iconic signature tune and Frankie’s distinctive voice.
Sarah Barragry played all the other roles as well as Val, the daughter given up for adoption to the nuns. Donagh Deeney played Hall, Jimmy Magee and the other male characters with dignified style. Nuala Hayes had the audience in the hollow of her hand as they laughed at her humour, delighted in her dancing and cried as she got drunk and couldn’t put on her shoes. A sequence about child abuse chilled the audience and it was in no way sensational. Near the end it was so poignant when a near dementia Frankie, did not know what the radio was. The ultimate irony of Dear Frankie, so expert on the radio in matters of the heart, love, life and living, a lost lonely bewildered woman. A very sad end.