FRANKLAND AND SONS
by Tom and John Frankland.
Camden People’s Theatre 58-60 Hampstead Road NW1 2PY To 28 January 2012.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm. www.tomfrankland.co.uk
Runs 1hr 20min One Interval.
TICKETS: 0207 419 4841.
Review: William Russell 13 January.
Not so much theatre of the absurd as downright peculiar.
This delightful entertainment resulted from the fact that after Tom Frankland’s Aunt Barbara died in 2006 he and his father John ended up with several suitcases containing letters written by his grandparents over some 25 years.
It led to their creating loving look at family life, memories, laughter, tears, what have you. It is one of those theatre of the absurd-like affairs – the pair come on trundling suitcases, one of which is spilling sand all over the place, and proceed, like fugitives from a Beckett play to do peculiar things.
They take out the letters, read them, pin them up on red string washing lines that straddle the acting area, invite the audience to submit memories of their own, dispatched as paper airplanes to the stage, which also get pinned up, along with pieces of ribbon and red balloons marking special moments in the story they are telling. It is both daft and enchanting and in Act Two something totally unexpected is revealed – even the most loving of families have secrets.
The letters written by granddad Len, who served in the Army, are no masterpieces of the art, but that makes them all the more touching. They start with his courtship of Wyn in 1921 and end in 1946 because after that he was demobbed and they were never apart, and allow father and son to reflect on the family to which they belong.
Perhaps the best moment comes when the purpose of that sand becomes clear. The pair – Tom is a slightly taller, smudged carbon copy of his Dad – decide to go through the programme for a wartime concert organised by Len and come to the Eastern Brothers. Who could they have been? Then they start to undress, ending up in vest and underpants, before donning crimson fezzes and launching into a dance that Wilson and Keppel would surely give their blessing to – the only thing missing is Betty. Like the show it is funny and sad and conjures up the past perfectly.
Assorted Franklands: Tom Frankland, John Frankland.
Director: Jamie Wood.
Lighting: Cis O’Boyle.