Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Michael Frayn is known in the United States primarily as the author of two popular plays, Noises Off (pr. 1982) and Benefactors. In his native England, however, he is widely respected for a considerable variety of works. Before turning to playwriting he was a journalist for Manchester’s The Guardian and The Observer, winning a National Press Award for distinguished reporting in 1970 for a series of articles on Cuba. During this period he also wrote two television plays and four of his five novels. Frayn’s playwriting career began in 1970 with The Two of Us, an evening of four comic sketches on marriage that was judged well written but slight. The Sandboy (pr. 1971), which followed, has some rudimentary echoes of the later Benefactors but was not a success, despite containing some effective comedy. Alphabetical Order (pr. 1975) was considerably more successful.

Through the mid-1970’s, Frayn continued to write novels, teleplays for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), essays, and even a book of philosophy, Constructions (1974). The latter provided the basis for his play Clouds (pr. 1976), which explores different characters’ perceptions of events and uses a theatrical style similar to that found in the later Benefactors. Donkeys’ Years (pr. 1976) was another very successful farce, but the more philosophical Liberty Hall (pr....

(The entire section is 408 words.)