An evening with Michael Frayn at the Bloomsbury Institute

26 Jul

Yesterday I went to the beautiful Bloomsbury Institute to listen to an interview with the multi-talented writer, Michael Frayn.  He has been one of my favourite contemporary novelists for many years now and I am still happily working my way through reading his back catalogue.  I first learnt about his writing as a 16 year old, studying ‘Spies’ for English AS Level and was hooked since then which is weird as I usually think tediously analysing every single word, a practice somewhat synonymous with English Lit courses in the UK, would mean I would never want to read another book by Frayn again.  However, in this case, it had the opposite effect.  I loved ‘Spies’ so much – the beauty of Frayn’s prose, the themes of the transience of memory and the brutal transition from childhood into adulthood – so I was eager to read more of Frayn’s work.

The talk mainly covered Frayn’s work as a playwright as it was an interview with Geoff Coleman, Head of Acting at Central School of Speech and Drama.  Last year I saw ‘Noises Off’ in the theatre and thought it was the funniest play I have ever watched.  It literally had me in stitches as I was giggling so much.  What struck me was how clever it was and the challenges Frayn must have had when writing a play about a play within a play.  Well worth watching and the talk discussing his motivations and relationship with the director Michael Blakemore has motivated me to watch more of his plays.


Frayn first worked as a journalist and he talked about how he thought his journalistic background had helped him with his fiction writing.  Essentially, he believes that real life is far more complicated than fictional worlds and it would benefit fiction writers to experience real-life reporting to understand the reality and how to write concisely, with definitive facts.  Working in PR, I guess many would dispute whether you need to write with ‘definitive facts’ but I did find Frayn’s words encouraging as I often wonder if the writing I do in my job actually benefits my fiction writing.

I didn’t realise at the beginning but I was sat next to a playwright, Alistair Beaton who was lovely and friendly and introduced me to Frayn at the end for a book signing.  Thanks to Wikipedia, the fountain of all knowledge, I’ve since found out that Beaton is a Scottish left-wing political satirist, journalist, radio presenter, novelist and television writer.  It was amazing to be around such talented writers and incredibly inspiring.  At one point, Frayn was asked a question about his favourite contemporary playwrights and he mentioned Beaton and his play ‘Feelgood’, a satire on New Labour spin doctors.  So this is something I intend to explore next!

I had an amazing evening and chatted to some lovely people within the publishing industry.  The atmosphere was incredibly inspiring and it was great to meet someone I have admired for so long.  It also made a change to go to an event that didn’t claim to ‘teach’ you anything; in fact, I learnt far more at this than I have at many other literary events I have attended.

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