Plays by Michael Frayn

Alphabetical Order

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A provincial newspaper office in the 1970s – and it’s another day of chaos in the cuttings library. Files all over the floor, phones left ringing. And where is Lucy, the librarian . . . ? Her life (when she finally arrives), and the lives of the journalists who take refuge in her muddled retreat, turn out to be as confused as the library itself. Into this comfortable little world steps Lesley, Lucy’s new assistant. She’s young, bright, and she wants system and order. She wants things to change.

Writing about the play, The Times said: ‘The best of Frayn’s plays. He has found a way of writing broad comedy about ordinary and sympathetic people without resorting to artificial conflict or character distortion’.

Alphabetical Order was first produced at Hampstead Theatre on 11 March 1975 before transferring to the West End and winning the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy. It was revived at Hampstead Theatre on 16 April 2009.

audio Copenhagen

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

How different would the world have looked had the Nazis been the first to build an atomic bomb? Werner Heisenberg, one of Hitler's lead nuclear scientists, famously and mysteriously met in Copenhagen with his colleague and mentor, Niels Bohr, one of the founders of the Manhattan Project. Michael Frayn's Tony Award-winning drama imagines their reunion. Joined by Niels' wife, Margrethe, these three brilliant minds converge for an encounter of atomic proportions.

Recorded in Los Angeles before a live audience at the UCLA James Bridges Theater in November 2011.

Copenhagen is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Lead funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, bridging science and the arts in the modern world.

Directed by Martin Jarvis
Producing Director: Susan Albert Loewenberg
Alfred Molina as Niels Bohr
Shannon Cochran as Margrethe Bohr
David Krumholtz as Werner Heisenberg

Associate Producer: Christina Montano
Recording Engineer/ Sound Designer/Editor: Mark Holden for The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood
Casting Director: Cathy Reinking
Sound Effects Artist: Tony Palermo

video Copenhagen (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

A BBC/KCET Hollywood co-production, Copenhagen is a stylish screen adaptation of Michael Frayn’s award winning stage-play about science, friendship and the uncertainty of things. In 1941, the German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a strange trip to Copenhagen to see his Danish counterpart, Niels Bohr. The pair had once been great friends and close colleagues who had revolutionised atomic physics in the 1920s with their work together on quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle. But now the world had changed and the two men were on opposite sides in a world war. Their meeting was fraught with danger and embarrassment and ended in disaster. Ever since, historians have wondered why Heisenberg went to Copenhagen and what he wanted to discuss with Bohr. In Michael Frayn’s play, Heisenberg meets Bohr and his wife Margrethe once again to look for the answers and to work out, just as they had once worked out the internal functioning of the atom, how we can ever know why we do what we do.

The stage play premièred in May 1995 at the Royal National Theatre, London and won the 1998 Evening Standard and the Critics’ Circle Awards for Best New Play. Its New York debut was at the Royale Theatre in April 2000. This adaptation features a slightly abbreviated script and is shot on location.

‘Be prepared to go through some serious mental gymnastics to keep up with the action, but it's worth the effort.’ The Guardian

‘I found myself thinking that it worked even better than it had in the theatre. Largely shot in a sparsely furnished country house bathed in chilly Scandinavian light, it was flawlessly constructed, constantly unsettling and deeply moving, with wonderfully judged performances … one of the dramatic highlights of the year.’ Sunday Telegraph


Director: Howard Davies; Cinematographer: Ian Wilson (Emma, The Crying Game); Producer: Richard Fell; Executive Producer: Simon Curtis (Man, Boy); Starring: Stephen Rea (The Crying Game), Daniel Craig (Our Friends in the North, Lara Croft Tomb Raider), Francesca Annis (Deceit, Wives, Daughters)

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP


Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Cath and Phil walked down the street, saw a ‘To Let’ board, and rented the top floor of Pat’s house, the studio that used to be the boys’ room, where she put Eric when he had his cough, in that chair just there behind the curtain.

Up alone in their little attic, their relationship is put to the test. Which side of the flat is Cath’s? Does Phil own the alcove? Will they ever throw out Theodore, the abandoned toy dog?

First produced at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in 1993, Here is a funny, accurate look at a young couple struggling to make joint decisions as they feel their individuality slipping away. The dialogue rings true, as Cath and Phil’s playful teasing escalates to reveal the insecurities at the heart of modern relationships. It was adapted as a BBC radio production in 2007, and was revived on stage at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, in April 2012.

La Belle Vivette

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

La Belle Vivette is Michael Frayn’s reworking of Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène (1864). Frayn eschews the original’s setting in Ancient Sparta in order to give his adaptation a metatheatrical twist, creating an opera about the creation of an opera in Second Empire Paris in the 1860s.

A parody of the Helen-Paris love story from classical mythology, Frayn’s operetta has the lovely Vivette as the face that launched a thousand ships. Kept under tight control by her protector (a pseudo-Menelaus), Monsieur Ploc, she nevertheless falls in love with the smitten new composer, Monsieur Berger. Secrecy, mistaken identity and chaos ensue, and the opera ends with the ‘perfect chance to start / The Franco-Prussian war!’

First performed at the English National Opera in 1995, La Belle Vivette starred Lesley Garrett and Neill Archer as Vivette and Berger.

audio Make and Break

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

From the author of Copenhagen and Noises Off. A comedy-drama about a door manufacturing company and a fateful convention in Frankfurt.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Rosalind Ayres, Allan Corduner, David Ellenstein, Julian Holloway, Peter A. Jacobs, Martin Jarvis, Robin Goodrin Nordli, James Warwick and Michael York.

Directed by Robert Robinson. Recorded before a live audience in February, 1993.

Featuring: Rosalind Ayres, Allan Corduner, David Ellenstein, Julian Holloway, Peter A. Jacobs, Martin Jarvis, Robin Goodrin Nordli, James Warwick, Michael York

Now You Know

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Set in the office of a small political pressure group for open government, Now You Know is a satirical comedy about the aftermath of a police cover-up. Mr Hassam has beaten himself to death, according to the Home Office. When a mysterious envelope arrives at the office with information revealing the guilt of the police, Terry Little wants to blow the scandal wide open and leak the document to the press. If he can find time, that is, between living with Jacqui at weekends, conducting an illicit liaison with Hilary in the evenings, and keeping the rest of the staff from finding out.

Now You Know, Michael Frayn’s adaptation of his earlier novel of the same name, was first produced at the Hampstead Theatre in 1995.

Michael Frayn was born in London in 1933 and read Russian, French and Moral Sciences (Philosophy) at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He began his career as a journalist on the Manchester Guardian and the Observer. His award-winning plays include Alphabetical Order, Make and Break and Noises Off, all of which received Best Comedy of the Year awards, while Benefactors was named Best Play of the Year. Two of his more recent plays, Copenhagen and Democracy, also won numerous awards (including, for Copenhagen, the Tony in New York and the Prix Molière in Paris). In 2006 Donkeys' Years was revived in the West End thirty years after its premiere and was followed in 2007 by The Crimson Hotel, at the Donmar, and by Afterlife, at the National Theatre, in 2008. Frayn has translated Chekhov's last four plays, dramatised a selection of his one-act plays and short stories under the title The Sneeze, and adapted his first, untitled play, as Wild Honey. Frayn's novels include Towards the End of the Morning (in the USA, Against Entropy), The Trick of It, A Landing on the Sun, Headlong and Spies. His most recent books were a work of philosophy, The Human Touch, and Stage Directions, a collection of his writing on the theatre.