Michael Frayn and Copenhagen

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Michael Frayn and Copenhagen

Post  pinhedz on Wed Nov 23, 2011 1:19 pm

"Copenhagen" is a play by Peter Freyn (sic), who also wrote "Noises Off," which is similar in some respects. It's probably the only play with discussions about the masses of natural uranium and highly enriched uranium required for critical mass, and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (LaRue should see it).



The play has three characters, and they are all dead. They are trying to remember what they said to each other during the last meeting when they were alive.

Werner Heisenberg and Niehls Bohr had been friends before WW-II, when they both did research on nuclear physics. But when some other European physicists went to the US, Heisenberg stayed in Germany.

Germany invaded Denmark, Bohr's homeland. Heisenberg went to visit him, but we are not sure what he was trying to do (recruit him to work on the Nazi nuclear effort, maybe?)

It was a short meeting, and neither man talked about it much afterwards. Heisenberg was investigated by a war crimes tribunal after the war, but was not convicted of anything (I'm not sure why he was even investigated).

In the play, the two men and Mrs. Bohr try to remember the meeting by replaying it. They replay it about 4 times, and each time it's a bit different (somewhat like "Noises Off").

By the end, we've learned a great deal, but we still aren't sure what happened. geek


Last edited by pinhedz on Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:16 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Michael Frayn and Copenhagen

Post  eddie on Wed Nov 23, 2011 8:23 pm

Michael Frayn.

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Re: Michael Frayn and Copenhagen

Post  pinhedz on Wed Nov 23, 2011 10:07 pm

Blame Daniel A. Michaels, who has spread this confusion all over the innernet. bounce

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Re: Michael Frayn and Copenhagen

Post  eddie on Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:57 am

Noises Off: the play so funny it made people ill

Michael Frayn's farce-about-a-farce may be a laugh, but it's anything but easy to act. And I should know


Noises Off by Michael Frayn in the Old Vic's new production (with Aisling Loftus, second-left, playing Poppy Norton-Taylor). Photograph: Tristram Kenton

Having read some enthusiastic reviews for the new production at the Old Vic, I've just dug out the script for Michael Frayn's Noises Off. The script, as it happens, is an original: I played Poppy Norton-Taylor, the assistant stage manager, in the first production at the Savoy in 1982. Looking at it after all these years, I see that I made very few notes. Michael Blakemore, the director, did not "direct" us (except for the drilled precision necessary for physical farce) as some do. His brilliance was in having a vision for a play, then choosing a cast he knew could fulfil it. Frayn seemed to have the same approach, and it was an unexpected delight to see him sometimes as we rehearsed, smiling up from the dark stalls. By then I think we all knew that Noises Off was going to work, though I don't think any of us had any idea what an extraordinary success the play was actually going to be.

The name of my character is underlined in biro throughout the script, as is usual. What is unusual is that certain parts of the script are divided down the centre of the page so that two conversations appear to be going on at the same time. Noises Off is, of course, a play within a play – three separate performances of a farce called Nothing On (entirely Frayn's invention), with two seen from the audience's perspective and one from backstage. More than that, it is a farce within a farce. The audience, as though peeping behind the curtain, are subjected to a situation more extreme and unrelenting than anything usually seen on stage, as the lives of the "real" characters go into meltdown much faster than those they are playing. But naturally the show must go on – even as Nothing On falls apart under the strain of apparently real-life drama.

For us, the first cast, the noises off that were most worth hearing came from the audience. There were full houses and brilliant reviews, even visits backstage by such notables as Lord Olivier and Princess Margaret (who extended a finger to touch Nicky Henson's chest after his beguilingly athletic performance as the juvenile lead, saying, "Hmm, you're frightfully damp"). But my strongest memory is of the people who sat out there in the darkness night after night, in a state of apparent hysteria from beginning to end. I remember friends saying that they longed for a pause in the comedy to give them time to recover, but there were no pauses, only escalation. Some people actually felt ill, though that didn't stop them booking seats to go through it all over again.

As for me, Poppy Norton-Taylor was one of the last parts I played in the theatre or any other medium. I decided the time had come to refuse any more acting jobs and do what I had always wanted to do, become a writer. Two of my novels were published and I still earn my living just by writing. Did Noises Off affect this decision in any way? I didn't think so then, but now I wonder. As I've explained, being in the play was a unique experience. So perhaps I knew that this was the best I could ever hope for as an actress. It gave me the chance to move on.

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Re: Michael Frayn and Copenhagen

Post  eddie on Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:03 am

Noises Off – review

Old Vic, London

Kate Kellaway

The Observer, Sunday 18 December 2011


Karl Johnson and Celia Imrie in Noises Off: ‘fantastic’. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

If you are farce-averse, Michael Frayn's Noises Off (about an acting company's shenanigans) is likely to leave you hatchet-faced. I had never got the hang of it until now. But Lindsay Posner's fantastic pick-me-up of a production has made me a born-again lover of farce and of Frayn's virtuoso engineering. I giggled myself silly throughout. But where to start with this virtuoso shambles? This is Celia Imrie's problem, too, as sardine-obsessed Dotty. She cannot manage first lines or moves – she is priceless. Jamie Glover's Garry, who plays a randy, breathless estate agent, is sublimely funny and athletic (he takes a death-defying tumble downstairs). But when he first barges onto the bourgeois set (designer: Peter McKintosh) calling it a "shack in the woods", what he is actually after is a shag in the woods with Brooke (brilliantly gormless Amy Nuttall). Janie Dee's exquisite Belinda is also on the prowl. Her precise professionalism becomes ever more ludicrous as everything goes wrong around her. Jonathan Coy is adorable as Freddie, her glum, neurotic other half. The stagehands are entertainingly frantic: Aisling Loftus as hapless Poppy and Paul Ready as exploited, unshaven Tim. Robert Glenister's Lloyd, the philandering director, talks nonsense dressed as profundity and knows how to pace his idiocies: "That's sardines. That's theatre and" – offered as an uncertain afterthought – "that's life." And Karl Johnson's burglar would, were it not for so much competition, steal this stunning show.

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Re: Michael Frayn and Copenhagen

Post  eddie on Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:32 pm

Michael Frayn: 'I'm never going to write anything again…'

…but that's what the veteran playwright and novelist always says. And his latest novel, a laugh-out-loud farce set on a Greek island, gives no hint of being his last word

Rachel Cooke

The Observer, Sunday 29 April 2012


'Hilarious': Michael Frayn at his home in Petersham, south-west London. Photograph: Richard Saker

Reviewers will often say a book made them laugh out loud, when what they mean – funny books being so bafflingly thin on the ground – is that it made them smile; their exaggeration is a symptom of their relief that it even did that. But Skios, Michael Frayn's new novel, his first for 10 years, truly does make you laugh out loud. I sniggered on the train and the bus; I sniggered in the kitchen, the bedroom and, on one occasion, in the shower. I wasn't reading the book in the shower, obviously. But I was thinking about it, and that was enough. Skios, which stars a pompous academic called Dr Norman Wilfred, a shambolic bounder called Oliver Fox, and something called the Fred Toppler Foundation, organiser of an annual thought-fest for rich people – it's like the World Economic Forum at Davos, only without the snow, the balance sheets or Stephanie Flanders – really is hilarious.


Skios
by Michael Frayn

"Oh, good," says Frayn, when I tell him this. "I'm glad. It is a bit of an experiment. I wanted to see if you could do farce as a novel. In the theatre the audience is released by the laughter of the people around them. But with a novel you have an audience of only one; no corporate reaction." He pauses. "Of course, at this stage [in my career] self-plagiarism is a terrible danger. I realised recently that Skios is slightly similar to a film I wrote, Clockwise [starring John Cleese]. Though things in Skios go wrong for different reasons. The other difference is that, with a novel, you do need to know what the characters are thinking. You need to know what Oliver Fox thinks he is up to, which is, frankly, not very much."

This is true – though it's the unreliable Fox who sets the dominoes falling when he lands on the Greek island of Skios for a romantic assignation. On seeing a taxi driver holding a sign that reads "Dr Norman Wilfred", Fox decides – who knows why? – to pretend to be him, a move that provides him with the chance to enjoy a little of the Fred Toppler Foundation's hospitality, and to deliver its keynote speech. Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, a lovely young woman called Georgie Evers discovers, to her horror, that the man who has been delivered to her villa is not the gorgeous Oliver Fox but a balding, slightly podgy fellow called Dr Norman Wilfred.

"It had been in my mind for a while," says Frayn. "Every time I arrived at an airport and saw the line of people holding up cards, I thought: what would happen if I went up to one of them? How far would I get?"

It's probably not giving too much away to say that Fox gets a very long way indeed. He is… deluded! "He saw his life as Dr Norman Wilfred stretching in front of him like the golden pathway into the rising sun," writes Frayn. "He had no choice but to walk along that pathway, towards the warmth, towards the light."

Where did this Oliver Fox come from? "Well, there is a touch of a real person in there," says Frayn. "John Gale, a wonderful reporter at the Observer. When I was a student I passionately admired him. He wrote these extremely cool, offbeat pieces. I desperately tried to imitate his style, quite unsuccessfully. When I joined the Observer, I met him. He was a manic depressive; in the end he killed himself. But his manic phases were extraordinary. He once told me he'd been walking down Fleet Street when he realised that the car next to him – the traffic was slow-moving – had white ribbons on it. He could see the happy couple sitting in the back and he knew – he just knew – that what they wanted him to do was to get in. So he did. He sat and chatted quite happily. He had that absolute certainty. There's a bit of that in Oliver."

Frayn, who will be 80 next year, always tells interviewers that his current book/play/memoir will be his last. "I'm never going to write anything ever again," he says to me, mock solemn. He and his wife, Claire Tomalin, are enjoying the quiet after the storm (her biography of Dickens was published last year); neither of them has begun a new book yet and the atmosphere is "quite jolly – we get a bit monosyllabic when we're both writing".

But it's impossible to imagine them not working – and sure enough, in the next breath, he reveals that he has been rewriting parts of his 1993 play Here which, by the time you read this, will have opened at the Rose Theatre, Kingston (meanwhile, the Old Vic's ace revival of Noises Off continues in the West End). Isn't work his engine? "Well, if you haven't got a job, it's difficult to retire. I've sometimes thought that I should go out and buy a clock and present it to myself. It does seem a bit improbable [to be almost 80]. An elderly actor was once asked what it was like being old. He said: it's like being young but having a lot of slap on your face. I've got quite a bit of slap on my face. But it doesn't feel any different internally."

Frayn's last book was a memoir of his childhood, My Father's Fortune – that was another thing he used to say: that he'd never write about himself. "I intended to write about my father [who was a funny, kind and deaf asbestos salesman] but I found I had to write about myself because part of his experience in life was having a son and finding ways to get on with him." I wonder what he feels about this book two years' on; I think it's a masterpiece. "One of the sad things about writing non-fiction is that it moves you still further away from the original events. I wrote it as truthfully as I possibly could but, looking at it now, I wonder if I made the whole thing up. I'm glad I did it. But it was emotional. People said afterwards: have you achieved closure?" He snorts. "I would say: absolutely not! It just stirred all the feelings up again…

One of the nice things, the terrific things, was that I got letters: from people who recognised something of their own family life but also from people who knew my father. The most wonderful was from someone who'd been in the next hospital bed to him when he first had cancer. My father had been having a rough time, he was in great pain, but this man – a student who'd had his appendix removed – said that my father realised he was homesick, and kept an eye on him." His eyes fill with tears.

A while ago a friend of Frayn's told the New Yorker that he and Tomalin were living an idyll – and this is how it looks from the outside. Their house close to the Thames in Petersham is luxuriantly light and organised; their lives are replete with work and family (between them they have six children and 10 grandchildren); the painful things – Frayn was married when he fell in love with Tomalin – are now in the past. Is this how it feels? An idyll? "No!" he yelps. "Wherever you live, however you live, there's still the weekly shopping to do, the computer to fix." The Russians, he says, have a wonderful but impossible-to-translate word for this stuff – the exhausting logistics of life. He says the word, and then he spells it, for the benefit of my tape. But when I get home I can't hear either – and when I Google it, I'm offered the chance to buy a mail order bride. We sort this out by email later: it transliterates as "byt". But Google's misunderstanding is, I think, quite delicious, it being exactly the kind of thing that happens on the strange and bewitching island of Skios.

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