Features Essays Published 21 December 2011

A Family Affair

Tom Frankland is a theatre-maker and performer. His recent collaborations include Laura Mugridge's Running On Air and Paperweight and Free Time Radical with The Frequency D'ici.
Tom Frankland

It is nearly Christmas and I am preparing to go home for my annual visit to Cornwall to see friends, family and my dad. This year, however, amongst the usual traditions and drinking there will be a difference. It hasn’t been months since I last called my dad because we are on the phone most days organising final details and planning for the January run at CPT of our collaborative show, Frankland & Sons.

The show’s title reflects our feeling that this show has become a family business. If I was a butcher, or an undertaker, or a greengrocer it would seem to be a natural thing to work with my dad, but it had never occurred to me that that is exactly what I have always done. My first ever stage appearance was aged one and a half, as a dancing bear in a panto that my mum was starring in, directed by my dad and it has continued from there. I grew up performing in the youth group and amateur dramatic plays that dad directed, whilst he pursued his professional career as a teacher – one of those inspirational and radical teachers who in the 70’s created drama departments where there were previously none (my dad turned his school’s old boiler room into his first drama studio), whilst all the time wearing striking yellow flares!

John and Tom Frankland.

I always knew I wanted to be a professional actor and, around the time I left home for university, there was a separation in the theatre we both made – I lived away and was now performing professionally and our creative worlds seemed to drift apart. Over the years I have found myself creating pieces of autobiographical theatre. I made Running On Air last year, in collaboration with my wife, Laura Mugridge, about our life, marriage and our campervan; Rewind After Listening where one audience member selected and listened to cassettes containing episodes from my life; and my work with The Frequency D’ici in which we always try to draw upon our present situation and the way we are living our lives at that moment.

I have made work with my wife, my best friend and collaborate frequently with my brother (who is an amazing musician and designer) so when, two years ago, my dad inherited a trunk full of old letters written by his father and I suggested to him that maybe there would be a play in it, I was following a theme.


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