Play by Michael Frayn. West Germany, 1969. Willy Brandt begins his brief but remarkable career as the first left-of-centre Chancellor for nearly forty years. Always present but rarely noticed is Gunter Guillaume, Brandt's devoted personal assistant - and no less devoted in his other role, spying on Brandt for the Stasi. Three political parties, in and out of bed with each other like drunken intellectuals, fifteen warring cabinet ministers, and sixty million separate egos. All making deals with each other and breaking them. All looking round at every moment to see the expression on everyone else's face. All trying to guess which way everyone else will jump. All out for themselves and all totally dependent on everyone else. Not one Germany. Sixty million separate Germanies. The tower of Babel!
Democracy - Original London West End Production 2003 / 2004
Previewed 30 Aug 2003, Opened 9 Sept 2003, Closed 30 Dec 2003 at the NT Cottesloe Theatre
Transferred 12 Feb 2004, Closed 30 March 2004 at the NT Lyttelton Theatre
Previewed 16 April 2004, Opened 20 April 2004, Closed 9 Oct 2004 at the Wyndham's Theatre
The World Premiere of Michael Frayn's new play Democracy in London directed by Michael Blakemore.
The original West End cast at the Wyndham's Theatre featured Roger Allam as 'Willy Brandt' and Conleth Hill as 'Gunter Guillaume' with Nicholas Blane, Paul Broughton, Simon Chandler, Christopher Ettridge, Glyn Grain, Paul Gregory, David Ryall and Michael Simkins. The original London cast at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre featured Roger Allam as 'Willy Brandt' and Conleth Hill as 'Gunter Guillaume' with Nicholas Blane, Paul Broughton, Jonathan Coy, Christopher Ettridge, Glyn Grain, Paul Gregory, Steven Pacey and David Ryall. Directed by Michael Blakemore with sets by Peter J Davison, costumes by Sue Willmington, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Neil Alexander.
"Michael Frayn speculates on the detail, but the facts of this fascinating tale are all true. Throughout Willy Brandt's chancellorship, his personal assistant, Gunter Guillaume, was a spy for the East German security service. Even more extraordinarily, Guillaume was Brandt's most devoted admirer. Roger Allam is excellent as the charismatic Brandt, a voracious womaniser, drinker and depressive who, for all his charm, seems pathetically alone, friendless and curiously blank behind his sophisticated political veneer. Better still is Conleth Hill's Guillaume, the servant of two masters who gains access to the corridors of power by being as 'anonymous as a hat-stand'... Michael Blakemore's seamless production is staged on a set divided vertically and horizontally, illustrating the various political divisions, not just between East and West, but within Brandt's party... Highly recommended." The Mail on Sunday
"Perhaps those unfamiliar with German coalition politics in the 1970s will have the odd dizzy moment... but, thanks to the skills of Frayn and director Michael Blakemore, I was gripped throughout by the events unfolding in an office-cum cafe set... Conleth Hill's Guillaume begins as eager-to-please, slightly smarmy, and, when matters of state are being discussed, as anonymous as a hatstand; but, thanks to the "ray of sunshine" that is Brandt's fellowship, he's a more questioning and self-questioning man by the play's end. And Roger Allam's Brandt is still more layered, as befits a man who spent the 1930s and 1940s using aliases galore: indecisive, impulsive, warm, aloof, innocent yet shrewd, and broader of mind and deeper of soul than the colleagues murkily manoeuvring around him." The Times
Democracy in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 16 April 2004, opened on 20 April 2004 and closed on 9 October 2004
Democracy - 1st West End Production 2012
Previewed 15 June 2012, Opened 20 June 2012, Closed 14 July 2012 at the Old Vic Theatre
A major revival of Michael Frayn's 'spy thriller' Democracy in London following a critically acclaimed run at the Sheffield Theatre.
Michael Frayn's play takes us into a world of political intrigue, espionage and betrayal. Based on real life events during the final months in office of the charismatic West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, this political tale unfolds as suspicions rise of a Stasi spy infiltrating his inner circle. Tensions mount as Brandt's precarious coalition government is pushed to its limits. Winner of the Evening Standard Award and Critics' Circle Best Play awards. this is a thrilling portrayal of a political visionary who changed the face of German politics.
The cast for this production of Democracy in London features Patrick Drury as 'Willy Brandt' and Aidan McArdle as 'Gunter Guillaume' with Andrew Bridgmont, David Cann, Richard Hope, William Hoyland, Ed Hughes, David Mallinson, James Quinn and Rupert Vansittart. Directed by Paul Miller with designs by Simon Daw, lighting by Mark Doubleday and music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham. Michael Frayn's other plays include Donkeys' Years (Harold Pinter Theatre 2006) and Noises Off (Old Vic Theatre 2011 and Novello Theatre 2012).
"With so many references to the pains of trying to hold a coalition together, Michael Frayn's absorbing, tense play about the West German chancellor Willy Brandt (1969-74) has acquired a new relevance since it was first staged in 2003... Paul Miller's beautifully lit production makes excellent use of the stage as the politicians, all men in suits, complain and conspire while simultaneously professing their loyalty to Brandt, their complex leader, who combines drinking and womanising with a brave policy of reconciliation with his Soviet-bloc neighbours... Once again, Frayn reveals his rare ability to probe the intricacies of human behaviour." The Sunday Times
"Democracy is considered - along with Copenhagen - to be evidence of Frayn's serious side, but I would submit its focus is once again on human frailty and ridiculousness. Certainly, if Willy Brandt hadn't exisited, Frayn would have had to have invented the West German Chancellor. He is a classic Frayn character - big, important, larger-than-life, but ultimately undone by his own weaknesses, in particular his vanity... One wonders, however, if modern audiences will love Frayn's complicated and intelligent work quite as much I do... This may be something of a theatrical masterclass to punters over 40, but to anyone younger it may amount to little more than a group of men in suits giving a seminar on German politics in the Seventies." The Sunday Telegraph
"In Paul Miller's excellent revival, hazy from all the cigarettes, pipes and general murk created by the plotting of politicians ostensibly on the same side... Patrick Drury is outstanding as Brandt, suggesting rather than impersonating the real man. Chiselled and inscrutable, his Brandt is obviously depressed and lonely. He is master of the silent gesture - in public and in private - and he is as charismatic as Guillaume, the spy who loved him, is an unappealing nobody. As Brandt says, Guillaume 'carries ordinariness too far'. Actually he likens him to 'meatballs cooked in fat. Very leaden and very greasy'. With his Groucho Marx hair and too-short brown trousers, Aidan McArdle is perfect as the nerdy aide with an obsequious smile, the last person you'd ever suspect of anything underhand. But for all their differences, it is their similarities that are even more fascinating and that create this unlikely intimacy and trust. Both were damaged by absent fathers: Brandt was illegitimate and never met his; Guillaume's Nazi father committed suicide after the war. Brandt, like Guillaume, had been a spy, with all the courage and conflict that becomes second nature... Democracy is among Michael Frayn's most richly rewarding achievements." The Mail on Sunday
Democracy in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 15 June 2012, opened on 20 June 2012 and closed on 14 July 2012.