Overview

Democracy


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A: Michael Frayn Pf: 2003, London Pb: 2003 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts S: Bundestag, government offices, restaurants, bars, Guillaume's flat, Bonn, West Germany, and rural Norway, 1969–74 C: 10mIn 1969 Willy Brandt is called to become German chancellor, the first Social Democrat to hold the appointment for almost 40 years. Günter Guillaume, who defected from the German Democratic Republic 13 years previously, is plucked from relative obscurity to liaise between the trade unions and the new government. Guillaume, one of the few non-academics on the new staff, is working as an East German spy. As Brandt embarks on his policy of unfreezing the Cold War through a rapprochement with East Germany, his party leader Herbert Wehner expresses his misgivings: ‘The more [democracy] you dare, the tighter the grip you have to keep on it.’ Brandt, under threat from scheming within his own party and from left-wing extremists, narrowly survives a vote of confidence, then appoints Guillaume as his personal assistant during his election campaign. In 1972, Brandt signs a treaty with East Germany and makes gains in the elections. After the election, Brandt's government runs into difficulties and loses popularity. West German security suspects Guillaume of being a spy, and he is eventually unmasked. When Brandt is further threatened with sex scandals, he resigns. Guillaume spends six years in prison before being released on a prisoner exchange. The play ends with the sound of the Berlin Wall being demolished, and Guillaume reflects that ‘I played my own small part in all this.’

A: Michael Frayn Pf: 2003, London Pb: 2003 G: Hist. drama in 2 acts S: Bundestag, government offices, restaurants, bars, Guillaume's flat, Bonn, West Germany, and rural Norway, 1969–74 C: 10m

With his usual intelligence and skill, Frayn takes a potentially rather dull political topic and transforms it into absorbing theatre. Brandt's own complex personality and his closeness to the man who was to cause his downfall provide a powerful personal interest, while Frayn also pursues an interesting debate into the nature of democracy. The East German Kretschmann, who acts as a kind of chorus commenting on Guillaume's career, dismisses the Federal Republic as ‘The tower of Babel’ and proudly predicts: ‘we all speak with a single voice…we shall endure when this whole ramshackle structure finally comes tumbling down’. History was to prove him wrong.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


Reference entries
Authors

Michael Frayn (b. 1933)


Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.