Real-life snake anti-venom factory worker and Welsh poet, Frank Thomas, has collaborated with National Theatre Wales and the Jones Collective on a new short film to be premiered at a special screening at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, on Tuesday 22 February. After the screening, the film will premiere online and be available for audiences across Wales to watch on National Theatre Wales’ website until 21 March.
Filmed in a giant plastic bubble in the middle of Chepstow Woods in Monmouthshire, FRANK is an eerily beautiful and poignant film that follows Frank’s struggle to make peace with the recent death of his father.
This timely piece about grief and loss, was originally planned to be staged as a theatrical experience deep in the woods of Wales. But as the pandemic hit it soon became clear that bringing audiences together inside a giant plastic bubble would be impossible under Covid restrictions. A labour of love for it’s co-creators Buddug James Jones and Jesse Briton, FRANK has now been reimagined as a short film, featuring original poetry by Frank Thomas and music by Sam Jones.
Based in Wales, the Jones Collective draw inspiration from the people and communities they meet. Previous work includes Hiraeth, winner of Wales Theatre Awards ‘Best Production in the English Language’ (2015). FRANK is inspired by, and created with, Frank Thomas. Unsatisfied with his job in a sterile anti-venom factory, the film revisits Frank’s memories in the hope of putting to rest a complex father-son relationship. The film culminates with a poem Frank wrote for his father’s eulogy. Looking back on the project Frank said:
“I remember having a chat with The Jones Collective and them telling me they wanted to make shows about real people’s lives. I couldn’t believe they wanted to make a show about me. I had an interesting job making snake anti-venom, and I also performed spoken word, but I think it was only when we started researching ideas that they actually got to know the real me. When my dad died, the project became even more personal. We talked about my dad and our relationship and it all fed into the story.”
The film juxtaposes the sterile environment of the giant plastic bubble, created by German installation artists Plastique Fantastique, and its beautiful woodland location. Filming in Chepstow Woods was made possible with support from Natural Resources Wales. For the Jones Collective’s Jesse Briton and Buddug James Jones, the show’s unlikely journey has been quite the ride. Jesse Briton said;
“I think it’s fair to say that none of us expected the process of making a film to be easy. However, the logistical and creative challenges were beyond what we expected. The free-wheeling, everybody-muck-in approach of collaborative theatre was replaced by a more rigid filming schedule. Not to mention the difficulty of recruiting a crew during possibly the busiest ever period for TV and Film production in South Wales.”
Despite the challenges, Buddug James Jones is looking forward to finally sharing the project with audiences. The screening at Chapter will be accompanied by a live performance by Frank and a Q&A with Buddug, Jesse and the creative team. Buddug James Jones said;
“The film wouldn’t have been possible without the support and patience of the incredible team we built. It’s been a huge learning curve for us to move from live performance to film. We’re excited to show what we’ve created, for audiences to see inside this bizarre structure, to hear Frank’s beautiful words and Sam’s majestic soundtrack.”
FRANK will premiere at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff on 22 February at 7pm. Tickets are £6 and can be bought online at chapter.org.
The film will premiere online on 22 February at 8pm and will be available to watch on-demand for free until midnight on 21 March at nationaltheatrewales.org/frank.