Frank Allen (Shane Adamczak), polite and amiable janitor, is paying less than adequate attention at work one night and manages to accidentally shrink himself. Somehow (Frank’s not really sure how, so neither are we) he ends up in the beard of Al (St John Cowcher), a minion at the dodgy burger joint next door, whose only constant in life seems to be his crush on the girl who works at the bakery across the road. What ensues is one of the most original and entertaining buddy-comedies you’re ever likely to have the opportunity to see.
For such a bizarre concept, the play actually works incredibly well, structurally. The two performers bounce off one another, ensuring the pace is snappy and the transitions from inside to outside the beard are smooth. Even when the two worlds collide it is clear what is going on, due in no small part to the excellent physicality of the performers. When they take on additional characters in the story, differentiation between each is easily achieved with the addition of simple props and a great variety of accents.
As might be expected from the title, there are several songs peppered throughout the show. They are both humorous and musically pleasing; Adamczak’s and Cowcher’s voices complement each other well. It’s a very self-aware show, with several direct references to the growth of the characters and the transitional nature of their relationship; this just adds to the amusement while still allowing those more emotional aspects to be included without things getting sappy.
The Ballad of Frank Allen will leave you with several unanswered questions (not least of which is, if you were to spell bakery with a z, where would you put it? – I’ve settled on bzakery), but it’s a show about a man living in another man’s beard, so it was never going to be straightforward. My advice is to sit back and enjoy the ride, because it is very enjoyable.
Kryztoff rating: 5K