Frayn is perhaps best known for his long-running, internationally successful stage farce Noises Off ; film , a frenetic play-within-a-play about the antics of an English theatrical company touring the provinces and its inept attempts at performing a typically English sex farce. Frayn graduated from the University of Cambridge in and worked as a newspaper reporter, columnist, and critic for the Manchester Guardian and The Observer. In the early s several collections of essays from his newspaper columns were published; his later travel writing for The Observer was collected as Travels with a Typewriter A wide-ranging and prolific author, Frayn wrote novels, plays, documentary films, and teleplays. He also translated and adapted several plays by Chekhov. Alphabetical Order concerns the dehumanization that occurs when a chaotic newspaper office is transformed by an overly efficient employee.
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Heisenberg — "No one understands my trip to Copenhagen. To Bohr himself, and Margrethe. To interrogators and intelligence officers, to journalists and historians. Well, I shall be happy to make one more attempt. They discuss the idea of nuclear power and its control, the rationale behind building or not building an atomic bomb , the uncertainty of the past and the inevitability of the future as embodiments of themselves acting as particles drifting through the atom that is Copenhagen.
Characters[ edit ] In most dramas in which the characters are based on real people, there is a point at which the character deviates from the real person. Michael Frayn works to keep that distinction as small as possible. Having studied memoirs and letters and other historical records of the two physicists, Frayn feels confident in claiming that "The actual words spoken by [the] characters are entirely their own. There is a great amount known about all of the primary characters presented in Copenhagen; the following includes those bits of information which are directly relevant and referenced in the work itself.
The son of a university professor, Heisenberg grew up in an environment with an intense emphasis on academics, but was exposed to the destruction that World War I dealt to Germany at a rather young age.
He married Elisabeth Schumacher, also the child of a professor, and they had seven children. During the Second World War, Heisenberg worked for Germany, researching atomic technology and heading their nuclear reactor program. After the war, his involvement with the Nazis earned him certain notoriety in the world of physicists, mainly due to the fact that he could have given Hitler the means to produce and use nuclear arms. He continued his research until his death in in Munich. Niels Bohr was born in , making him 38 when Heisenberg first came to work with him.
He married Margrethe Norlund in in Copenhagen and together they had six sons, two of whom died. During the war, however, Bohr was living in occupied Denmark and somewhat restricted in his research; he escaped to Sweden in , just before an SS sweep which would have incriminated him through his Jewish heritage.
In America, he worked in Los Alamos on the atomic bomb until the end of the war. He died in and was survived by his wife, Margrethe. Margrethe Bohr, known later in her life as Dronning or "Queen" Margrethe, was born in in Denmark. Her son Hans wrote, "My mother was the natural and indispensable centre. Father knew how much mother meant to him and never missed an opportunity to show his gratitude and love Style[ edit ] The construction of the plot is non-linear, seeing as it does not exist in time and space.
Sometimes one character will not notice that there are other people in the space, and speak as if to no one. The world that Frayn presents is outside of our conceptions as audience members, simply by virtue of the fact that no one attending the play has ever died.
So the world in which Copenhagen is based is somewhere between heaven and an atom. It can also be thought to exist "inside the heads" of the characters present.
It is a subjective world, taking and manipulating history, picking apart some events and mashing others together to better compare them. The characters are all plagued by some form of guilt or another, particularly in reference to the atomic bomb, and they are trapped in this world, doomed to forever speculate on that evening in Copenhagen in to determine how the world might have been changed.
These are all traits of the artistic style known as Expressionism. In his preface to A Dream Play , August Strindberg notes that in these worlds, "everything is possible and probable. Time and space do not exist. Working with Recurring images and motifs[ edit ] Because the concepts in physics and politics are at times very complicated or very abstract, Frayn uses several controlling images to better relate certain ideas to his audience.
That principle is applied to nuclear weaponry , suggesting that nations will act differently when they think that an opponent can produce nuclear arms, whether or not the opponent can. Their fascination in playing with the new toy blinds them to the danger that it poses. The phrase "Christian reaches for the life-buoy" appears several times during the play, and every time, the characters seem to hold their breath in the hope that this time, Christian will survive.
The play was originally written in English, but the real people in the exchange may have had the conversation in Danish or German, but even with translation in mind, Frayn defends that the words in the script are those that the characters would actually say. In his post-script, he writes, "If this needs any justification, I can only appeal to Heisenberg himself.
Plain language and scientific language both operate in the play. There are several instances when the two physicists start speaking too scientifically for many people to understand, and one of them will remark that they must revert to plain language, to explain it in a way that Margrethe will understand.
Even for that effort, criticism arose about the complexity of the play and the difficulty for viewers to comprehend. It was directed by Michael Blakemore. It had a "second" cast when it opened in the West End , who were responsible for performing at least one of the matinee shows each week.
Broadway Opening — April Continuing under the direction of Michael Blakemore, it opened on Broadway at the Royale Theatre on 11 April and ran for performances. But even for its success, Frayn admitted in an article that "A number of commentators expressed misgivings about the whole enterprise. Though a writer from Physics World hailed it as "brilliant theatre ," a Charles Spencer, of the Daily Telegraph, wrote, "I felt that my brain was being stretched to breaking point—well beyond breaking point, in fact.
It was directed by Carlos Gandolfo. It ran for four consecutive years and is considered one of the biggest hits in the history of that theatre. National touring in The movie substantially cuts down the script of the play, eliminating several recurring themes, and most of the material that established the community of scientists in Copenhagen.
It was directed by Tony Cownie. It was directed by James Dacre. It was directed by Anne Pasquale. It was directed by David Grindley. It was directed by Prakash Belawadi. Nolan as Niels Bohr. It was directed by Michael Roubey. February Awards and honours[ edit ].
'Copenhagen' by Michael Frayn Is Both Fact and Fiction
Start your review of Copenhagen Write a review Shelves: philosophy-theology , british , science , sociology Quantum Ethics Intentions maketh the man - in love, life, and war. Well perhaps not. Who knows anyones genuine motives, especially ones own. Our reasons for acting the way we do involve telling a story. Stories justify intentions as rational, beneficial, necessary, or just plain good. But whose story? All stories are arbitrary, or at least incomplete.
Copenhagen review – Michael Frayn's masterwork still blazes with mystery
Wade Bradford Updated December 13, Why do we do the things we do? The other scientist, Niels Bohr , is devastated that his native Denmark has been occupied by the Third Reich. The two spoke very briefly before Bohr angrily ended the conversation and Heisenberg left. Mystery and controversy have surrounded this historic exchange. Bohr, however, remembers differently. He claims that Heisenberg seemed to have no moral qualms about creating atomic weapons for the Axis powers.