Michael Frayn (born 8 September 1933) is an English playwright and novelist. He is mainly known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy, as well as the Fleet Street satire Towards the End of the Morning.
Frayn was born in London and educated at the Kingston Grammar School. Following two years of National Service, during which he learned Russian at the Joint Services School for Linguists, Frayn read Philosophy at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, graduating in 1957 with a degree in moral sciences. He then worked as a reporter and columnist for The Guardian and The Observer, and began publishing his plays and novels. Frayn's wife is Claire Tomalin, the biographer and literary journalist.
Perhaps his best known work, the play Copenhagen deals with a historical event, a 1941 meeting between the Danish physicist Niels Bohr and his protege, the German Werner Heisenberg, when Denmark is under German occupation, and Heisenberg is working on the development of an atomic bomb. It is considered by many to be Frayn's finest work.
Frayn's most recent play Democracy ran successfully in London (the National Theatre, 2003-4 and West End transfer), Copenhagen and on Broadway (Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 2004-5); it dramatizes the story of German chancellor Willy Brandt and his personal assistant, the East German spy Günter Guillaume.
His other original plays include two evenings of short plays, The Two of Us and Alarms and Excursions, the philosopical comedies Alphabetical Order, Benefactors, Clouds, Make and Break and Here, and the farces Noises Off, Donkeys Years and Balmoral (aka Liberty Hall).
He has written a number of novels, including Headlong, The Tin Men (won the 1966 Somerset Maugham Award), The Russian Interpreter (1967 Hawthornden Prize) and Now You Know. The most recent, Spies, won the Whitbread Prize for Fiction in 2002. He is the author of a book on philosophy, Constructions.
His columns for The Guardian and The Observer are models of the comic essay; in the 1980's a number of them were adapted and performed for BBC Radio 4 by Martin Jarvis.
He has also written screenplays for the film Clockwise, starring John Cleese, and the TV series Making Faces, starring Eleanor Bron.
He is now considered to be Britain's finest translator of Anton Chekhov - adapting the four major plays (The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard) as well as an early untitled work, which he titled Wild Honey (other translations of the work have called it Platanov or Don Juan in the Russian Manner) and a number of Chekhov's smaller plays for an evening called The Sneeze (originally performed on the West End by Rowan Atkinson).