Michael Frayn

English dramatist, columnist, reporter and translator Michael Frayn was born on September 8, 1933, in the suburbs of London. His mother, a once promising young violinist, died when Frayn was only 12, and his father, a rep for an asbestos and roofing materials firm, was forced to withdraw the young boy from the expensive private school he was used to attending in favor of a cheaper public education. Frayn, however, thrived in this new environment. Growing up in Ewell, south London, the young boy displayed a talent for music and poetry, and by the time he was a teenager, he knew that he wanted to be a writer of some sort.

After a brief stint in the army during which time he served as a Russian interpreter, Frayn attended the University of Cambridge. Graduating in 1957 with a degree in "moral sciences", he soon began his writing career as a reporter and columnist for the Manchester Guardian (1957-62) and The Observer (1962-68). During this time, he published several collections of essays from his columns and also wrote several novels including The Tin Men (1965), The Russian Interpreter (1966), and A Very Private Life (1968).

Frayn's first play was written for an evening of one-acts, but was rejected by the producer. Irritated, Frayn decided he would simply write several more pieces and put on an evening of his own short plays. Unfortunately, The Two of Us (1970), starring Lynne Redgrave and Richard Briars, was fairly disastrous. The production made back its money thanks mostly to the performances of Redgrave and Briars, but it was viciously attacked by the critics, and after the premiere, Frayn was spat upon in the street by audience members. Undaunted, however, Frayn continued to write for the stage, and his next efforts were far more successful.

Alphabetical Order (1975) tells the story of a newspaper office that loses its identity when an overly efficient employee attempts to impose order on the chaotic environment. This time, the play received raves from the critics and won Frayn the Evening Standard Award for "Best Comedy of the Year". He followed this success with Clouds (1976), Donkey's Years (1977), and Make or Break (1980) which also won the Evening Standard Award. However, Frayn is perhaps best know for Noises Off (1982), a frenetic behind the scenes look at an English theatrical troupe putting on a typically English farce. Noises Off won Frayn a third Evening Standard Award for "Best Comedy of the Year" and enjoyed a run of four years in London's West End. A companion piece, Look Look (1990), attempted to add a new twist. This time, the audience would watch an audience watching a play, but the idea didn't entirely hold together and the production only lasted 27 performances.

One of Frayn's most recent efforts, Copenhagen (1998), dramatizes the disastrous 1941 meeting between German physicist Werner Heisenberg and a former colleague and friend, Danish physicist Nils Bohr. Hailed as an imaginative and fascinating recreation of the historical meeting, Copenhagen earned "Best Play" honors at the 1998 Evening Standard Awards and brought Frayn once again to the attention of international audiences.

Frayn has also translated several plays by Chekhov including The Cherry Orchard (1978), Three Sisters (1983), and Uncle Vanya (1988), Chekhov's first, untitled play as Wild Honey, and four of his one-acts: The Evils of Tobacco, Swan Song, The Bear and The Proposal. His first film, Clockwise (1986), featured John Cleese, and his second film, First and Last (1990), won an international Emmy Award. The film adaptation of Noises Off was produced by Disney with a star-studded cast and Alphabetical Order, Donkey's Years, Make and Break, and Benefactors have all been filmed for UK television. One of Frayn's novels, A Landing on the Sun (1991), was presented on the BBC in 1994, and another, Headlong (1999) was a contender for the Booker Prize.

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Frayn's Plays

Other Works


Related Sites

British Theatre Index

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