Stage Directions: Writing on Theatre 1970-2008

Faber and Faber

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'I began my professional career in the theatre very late. What held me up was early failure...'

Collected here for the first time, the essays Michael Frayn has written about his own plays over the years form an essential commentary on his life and work.

Stage Directions covers half a lifetime and the whole range of Frayn's theatrical writing -- on his dramas (Copenhagen, Democracy), comedies (Noises Off, Donkeys' Years) and celebrated translations, most particularly of Chekhov. It is also a reflection on his path into theatre: his early, ill-fated attempts at Cambridge Footlights, his subsequent scorn in his newspaper columns and, surprisingly late in life, his reluctant conversion to the stage.

The essays (which include the postscript to his latest play, Afterlife) also develop a particular view of what theatre is. Frayn's plays are 'attempts to show something about the world, not to promote any particular idea of it' -- ways of gaining access to the lives and minds of others. Theatre can reveal the human purposes that shape reality -- the intentions and feelings that are never directly accessible to the reporter or the historian. It can show how we struggle, sometimes successfully, to reconcile our necessarily different viewpoints.

Whatever form theatre takes, whether it concerns the exploration of the atomic nucleus or the mechanics of farce, Michael Frayn sees it as involving the creation of an alternative world existing in its own right. It is a shared pleasure in which actors and audiences together can sometimes experience moments of self-forgetfulness -- and perhaps in the process unconsciously recognise something of their own elusive selves.

Format: Hardcover
Year published: 2008

Pages: 268
Screenwriting; essays
Imprint: Faber and Faber

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