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Writer - Janet Frame (Adapted for the stage by Anita Sullivan)

Janet Frame was born in Dunedin New Zealand in 1924 into a working class family. She was raised with a love of words, of literature and of nature, and her writing talent was recognised at an early age. However writing, especially for a woman, was not regarded as a 'real job'.
The fate befalling the young woman who wanted ‘to be a poet’ has been well documented. Desperately unhappy because of family tragedies and finding herself heading towards the wrong vocation (as a schoolteacher), her only escape appeared to be in submission to society's judgement of her as abnormal. She spent four and a half years out of eight years, incarcerated in mental hospitals. The story of her almost miraculous survival of the horrors and brutalising treatment in unenlightened institutions has become well known. She continued to write throughout her troubled years, and her first book (The Lagoon and Other Stories) won a prestigious literary prize, thus convincing her doctors not to carry out a planned lobotomy.
She returned to society, but not the one that had labelled her a misfit. She sought the support and company of other writers and set out single-mindedly and courageously to achieve her goal of being accepted as a writer. She wrote her first novel (Owls Do Cry) while staying in a rented hut in fellow author Frank Sargeson’s back garden, and then left New Zealand, not to return for seven years.
She lived first in Ibiza and later in England where eventually she was assessed by specialists and liberated from the misguided diagnosis of schizophrenia. Acting on advice from her doctor (‘as I was obviously suffering from the effects of my long stay in hospital in New Zealand’), she produced the novel Faces in The Water: an exquisitely written fictional transformation of some of the torments she had experienced and the misfortunes she had witnessed during her stays in psychiatric wards.
From this point on Janet Frame had the confidence to resist a portrayal of herself as 'crazy' simply because she wanted to live a mainly solitary life, avoiding marriage and family and a 'real' job, so that she could preserve her 'own world' - her writing. She changed her surname to 'Clutha' (after a New Zealand river) and was issued with a new passport. She continued to write under the surname Frame and attempted to live as anonymously as possible under the pseudonym.
She worked prolifically and later returned to New Zealand as an established author internationally acclaimed for her unique literary style in which she pushed the boundaries of the traditions she drew from and grew out of.
She based herself in her home country for the rest of her life, although she travelled frequently to the United States and England.
In her lifetime she published eleven novels, five collections of stories, a volume of poetry and a children's book. As her fame grew and readers became curious to know more about the private life behind the famous ‘local girl made good’, her reluctance to make more than a few public appearances led to a perception of her as a recluse who was unable, rather than unwilling, to jump through the publicity hoops generally expected at the release of each new volume. Her relative absence from the lecterns and radio waves of the nation allowed conjecture and rumour to proliferate. Exasperation at some of the 'myths' she heard about herself, led her to attempt to ‘set the record straight’ in the celebrated autobiographical trilogy she wrote as she approached the age of sixty. The success of the autobiography led to even more fame, and when Jane Campion released her film adaptation, (An Angel at my Table), Janet Frame's story became a worldwide source of inspiration far beyond her usual international literary audience. In her home country she was already affectionately regarded as a cultural 'icon'.
Throughout her long career she received many honours at home and abroad. She was made a CBE in 1983 for services to literature, awarded an honorary doctorate of literature from Otago University in 1978, and one from Waikato University in 1992. She received New Zealand's highest civil honour in 1990 when she was made a Member of the Order of New Zealand. Janet Frame died in Dunedin in 2004.

Director -


New Perspectives is an East Midlands' based touring theatre company, specialising in bringing new work to rural and community audiences. Through an annual programme of original adaptations, rare revivals and new writing, we aim to bring live theatre that is diverse, affordable and accessible into the heart of wide-ranging communities, as well as to regional, national and international venues.  
Our productions are testament to the fact that rural theatre is as relevant, challenging and vital as theatre made for any other environment. Our participatory projects, career defining training and mentoring opportunities for emerging regional talent and rural touring scheme Northants Touring Arts makes tangible difference to people where they live.

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