Dear Frankie…

TEARS, laughter and good advice were a daily occurrence on Frankie Byrne’s radio show in Ireland.

From 1963 to 1985 the agony aunt fielded letters on a mind-boggling array of relationship and marital problems.

Some were full of pathos, while other reflected the often ridiculous side of love and marriage.

“The advice was a mix of reproach and wit, and often very tongue in cheek,” says Byrne’s friend and former colleague Frank Murphy.

The Beaconsfield local worked with Byrne at RTE and jumped at the chance to direct a play about her life story, Dear Frankie, at Kidogo Art House in Fremantle.

• A scene from the play Dear Frankie, based on the life of Ireland’s premier agony aunt Frankie Byrne. Photo by John Reed Medium

Murphy says Frankie’s show exposed a hidden Ireland of taboos and secrets, and some of the letters, especially those on social justice, are still relevant today.

Original letters are used in the play and some are profoundly moving, others absurd and a few pathetic, but they all very human, Murphy says.

Frankie’s own private life was a mix of triumph and tragedy as she battled her demons, including dark secrets that drove her to drink.

“Her public life was in total contrast to her private one, which was a car crash,” Murphy says.

As a public relations doyenne, Frankie managed J F Kennedy’s trip to Ireland in 1963, and launched the the Jacob Awards, the country’s equivalent of the Logies.

• Frankie Byrne helps organise JFK’s tour of Ireland in 1963. Photo by Tony O’Malley

Frankie loved Frank Sinatra and invariably played his songs during her show, so Irish playwright Niamh Gleeson has woven snippets of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ songs into the production.

Alide Chaney plays Frankie, while Mike-Anthony Sheehy and Jennifer McGrath portray 32 people that wrote letters to the show.

Frank Murphy studied at the Irish University and honed his skills as a director at Dublin’s famed Abbey Theatre.

After a life-time in theatre and radio, he recently retired as a lecturer at Murdoch University and WAAPA.

Dear Frankie is at Kidogo Art House on Bathers Beach from August 22 to 26.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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