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Father and son bring tale of grief to the stage

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A dusty suitcase stuffed with love letters from a bygone era inspired this village hall-scale production, a family drama written, narrated and acted by real-life father and son, John and Tom Frankland.

Retired drama teacher John inherited the case in 2006 when his sister suddenly died, making him “literally bent double” with grief. His violent spasm is significant; the subsequent unfolding of letters and secrets builds up to a remarkable revelation.

The letters were written by John’s parents to each other between 1921 and 1946. Their endearing, old-fashioned language and values – “oh, best beloved!” – speak of a more innocent age.

But as lovers of TV’s Who Do You Think You Are? will appreciate, much of the play’s intrigue comes from reading between the lines, trying to figure out what really went on.

Like any half-decent am dram, the acting was enjoyably cringe-inducing, though the show worked better when son and grandson chatted to us directly instead of performing scenes.

If it felt a bit like gate-crashing a family party, I admired the Franklands for staging their story, plus their obvious passion for grass-roots theatre. They plan to tour village halls around the country after their run in this little venue near Euston.

* Frankland & Sons is at the Camden People’s Theatre, in Hampstead Road, NW1, until Saturday January 28, 2012.

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