Book review: Frank Exchanges by David Wood

David Wood is one of our foremost writers for children, with plays, books, and magic forming part of his extensive resume.

Before that, he was an actor, notably one of the three leading young men in the film If … (alongside Malcolm McDowell and the late Richard Warwick).

Frank Exchanges is a collection of letters between Wood and his teacher/mentor, later friend, Frank Whitborn: a correspondence of close to half a century.

An absorbing read, what is clear as the exchanges continue over time is the mutual respect and affection between the two men and their shared love of theatre, books, writers, and audiences.

Although there is a sizable gap in the surviving correspondence, coinciding with Wood’s earliest successes, what remains is a fascinating read, an insight into what makes a curious snd creative mind tick.

Clearly, Wood and Whitborn clicked on a professional and personal level, and in reading their regular missives, we have a glimpse into what clearly became an important part of life for both.

Frank Exchanges celebrates theatre for young audiences in all its forms, with a sharp interest in the production of both hit and flop.

Some of the shows I am familiar with (Rock Nativity, Abbacadabra, The Gingerbread Man), others sound fascinating and worth seeking out (The Selfish Shellfish).

In celebrating children’s theatre and expressing the idea it should be treated with as much attention as its ‘grown-up’ counterparts (anyone who watches young people’s theatre surely recognises its value), Frank Exchanges is useful, essential, and thoughtful.

A very readable volume, edited by Chris Abbott, Frank Exchanges benefits from a chronological approach, but you will be just as entertained dipping in and out at any point.

Frank Exchanges is published by The Book Guild.