Michael Frayn



  • (1933 - ) British playwright, journalist, andnovelist, who made his reputation with a series of dark comedies.He served in the Royal Artillery and Intelligence Corps before readingphilosophy at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he joined the FootlightsClub. In 1957 he became a columnist on the Guardian, joiningthe Observer in 1962.

    Frayn made his theatrical debut in 1970, when the GarrickTheatre presented four short plays under the title of The Two ofUs, starring Lynn Redgrave and Richard Briers. Later comediesinclude Alphabetical Order (1975), set in a newspaper library,Donkeys' Years (1976), a tragicomedy about a college reunion,and Clouds (1976), starring Tom Courtenay as a journalist inCuba. After a 1978 flop with Balmoral, Frayn was again successfulin 1980 with Make and Break, about a businessman at a Germantrade fair, which won the Evening Standard Best comedy Award.In 1982 his Noises Off, which skilfully parodies the conventionsof farce, ran successfully at the Savoy Theatre.

    In 1984 Benefactors won the Evening StandardBest Play Award and the Laurence Olivier Award for Play of the Year.It involves four characters, who exist in different times and holddifferent philosophies of life, addressing the audience and each other.More recent plays include the somewhat poorly received Look Look(1990), Here (1993), and the hugely successful Copenhagen(1998), which explored the moral dilemmas faced by the nuclear physicistsNiels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg during World War II. Frayn enjoyedanother triumph with Democracy (2004), a play about Cold Warintrigues in the Germany of Willy Brandt that won the Evening StandardAward for best play and ran successfully in the West End. By contrast Afterlife (2008), about the Austrian actor-director Max Reinhardt,was widely considered a failure. Frayn has also won high praise for his translations of Chekhov, a writer with whom he evidently feels an affinity.