Frankland & Sons: Secrets and family lives

 

You've seen BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are?, the show where famous faces delve into their family history. Now, comes Frankland & Sons, a new stage production by theatre-maker and performer Tom Frankland and his dad, John, a retired drama teacher and award-winning theatre director.

A couple of years ago, Frankland senior inherited a suitcase of letters written by his parents, and the father and son duo sat down to read them together. What they discovered was a huge family secret, hidden for decades, which has been turned into a dramatic, life-changing twist in the show.

"Early on, we knew my grandfather's life would make a fantastic play," says Frankland junior, a double Scotsman Fringe First award-winner at the Edinburgh Festival.

"My father grew up in a boarding school so he didn't know my grandfather well. He knew him as a stern military chap but, after reading the letters, we realised he wasn't like that at all. He was very warm and extremely funny, it was almost as if he was writing for an audience.

"The story really resonates with people; it has elements of the Second World War and what life was like then. We've shown the work in progress at the Battersea Arts Centre and in a small village hall and lots of people from my dad's generation wanted to share their stories with us afterwards."

The process of working together has also brought the pair closer. "What we found really extraordinary was how my dad and I got to know each other more. We'd find a letter about one of my grandfather's girlfriends and end up having a huge conversation about our own experiences. It's completely transformed our relationship."

'Frankland & Sons', Camden People's Theatre, London NW1 (www.cptheatre.co.uk) 10 to 28 January

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