Chichester: Something more intimate

From a cast of hundreds and an audience of millions, director Paulette Randall whittles things down a little for Frankie and Johnny In The Clair De Lune in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre (until 
December 6).

Paulette, associate director for the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, is now handling a cast of just two in Terrence McNally’s play which in Chichester features Dervla Kirwan alongside Neil Stuke.

Frankie & Johnny

Frankie & Johnny

“It’s certainly quite intense,” Paulette says. “It is just the two of them, and they are on the whole time. It is so concentrated, just the two of them in this one room and nobody else. But it has its own pace. It’s a bit like a piece of music really. It has different movements to it. And it is bright. It’s about a universal subject matter that all of us, if we have managed to get to adulthood, will know something about. We have all fallen in love. It is beautiful, and it is funny.”

It all takes place in a New York apartment where a couple are struggling to start a new day. Wise-cracking chef Johnny has spent the night with his colleague, the rueful waitress Frankie, and now he won’t go home.

Inevitably, plenty of people will come to it with thoughts of the starry film: “But really it’s not anything like the film. This is all in one night in one apartment. In the film, presumably you see the diner and other places. I don’t know what else. I don’t really know the film.”

For Paulette, the important point is that it is romantic: “It really is terribly romantic which is lovely. Sometimes we get a bit too hardened to the realities of life and all that, so it is lovely to be doing something that is championing an emotional side to things.”

The play was 1987, and there are a few references which make it slightly a period piece, insofar as one of the supermarket chains mentioned no longer exists. It is also set in New York.

“But in a way, it could be anywhere. It is what is so specific that makes it universal, if you see what I mean.”

The show is Paulette’s first time in the Minerva: “It’s lovely to have the audience on three sides. Most of the time it is just pros arch you are working with.”

Originally Paulette was herself destined for the stage: “I went to drama school, but I got bored with acting. I didn’t really like it. I think what happened was I discovered this was the world that I wanted to be in whether I was acting or doing something else, and I realised I wanted to be doing something else.

“I got bored by acting. I wanted a challenge, and for a start I wanted to be in charge!”

As for the Olympics opening ceremony: “It was incredible. I don’t think I have ever been so tired in my life, but when you are doing something like that, you just know you are never going to do it again. But what was great was that everybody thought it was going to be pants. Everybody was saying ‘It had 
better be good!’ We thought ‘You just wait!’”

People have asked would she now want to work on the opening ceremony for Brazil: “But why would I? I am going to be at home for that one!”