Review: Frank. Just another brother?

Frank: Just Another Brother

New Stuff Theatre Company, Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford. Until April 18

Frank is not just another brother. He is Francis of Assisi, one of the most popular saints. But what lies beneath the cowl?

Ian Harris’s and Mark Spriggs’s intense and engaging character study explores the complex nature of this remarkable man.

Born to a wealthy family in 12th Century Italy, Francis (a nick-name referring to his French mother) started life as has many a privileged youth.

But when he became a prisoner of war he began to receive visions, and on his release he abandoned his youthful ways and became a wandering friar.

His teachings were successful, but in this autobiographical tale, told directly to the audience, we see a more complex figure. Francis never got over his feelings of rejection when his father abandoned him after his conversion.

Thereafter he sought in God and the natural world the family he had lost.

The strength of Francis’s passion was clear in this powerful and sensitive performance.

But was it wholly holy? Were the stigmata he received in a vision really divine or self-inflicted?

Did the attention he craved as a youth simply take on another form? Who was the man behind the image?

The enigma that is Francis is not easily explored these days without crude iconoclasm.

But Mark Spriggs’s solo performance gave it dignity; and if we were left still unsure who he was, that is not to discredit the man, the saint, or the production.

Two hours is a long time to sustain a monologue. This was an intelligent and satisfying exploration of an unusual character.

Rating 8/10

By Nick Le Mesurier