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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama



Michael Frayn

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To purchase Balmoral

Title: Balmoral
Author: Michael Frayn
Genre: Drama
Written: 1978/87
Length: 82 pages
Availability: in Michael Frayn Plays 2 - US
in Michael Frayn Plays 2 - UK
in Michael Frayn Plays 2 - India
  • An earlier version of Balmoral was first staged 20 June 1978 in Guilford; a version closer to the final text was first staged as Liberty Hall 24 Jauary 1980
  • Balmoral was first presented at the Bristol Old Vic 8 May 1987, in a production directed by Leon Rubin

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Our Assessment:

B : good fun, though a bit simple

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Balmoral takes place in 1937 -- but one in which history took a different turn back in 1917. It wasn't a Russian Revolution that toppled a monarchy and established a workers' state -- it was a British one. Former royal residence Balmoral is now a writers' retreat, while conditions everywhere in England are fairly ... Soviet.
       A B-list of British writers are in residence at Balmoral (the better-known names come in the more comfortable summer months): Warwick Deeping, Godfrey Winn, Enid Blyton, and Hugh Walpole. Around them, the place is going to pieces. The indoor temperature is forty-eight degrees, and every last item of any value (down to the ping-pong balls) is being pilfered.
       On top of that, an inspector is expected, which could mean the end of the warden's career. Someone arrives -- but it turns out to be a Russian journalist (i.e. from the capitalist press), eager to see what Soviet life is like. The problem is that the author he's most eager to meet is Walpole, who seems to have disappeared.
       The other writers naturally assume Walpole has been made to disappear: arrested, shot, officially taken away in any case -- a common enough occurrence, apparently ("I suppose it might only be ten years" Winn cheerfully suggests).
       Things get more complicated when Walpole reappears, but events then necessitate the Scottish butler (in this classless society) posing as Walpole for the journalist while a big secret is kept from the newspaperman in a trunk in the same room. It becomes a comedy of confusion, not only regarding personal identities but also class roles in this workers paradise. The butler as Walpole -- a proletarian dressed up as a writer -- is a great hit with the journalist, and much of the fun is in seeing how the characters keep up the ruse (and what roles some of the others (notably the warden) are forced to adopt). But it's all just pretend of course, and the truth will out .....

       Frayn's play is amusing enough, offering everything from simple farce to a bit of clever political commentary. Class is, of course, an odd British obsession, and it gets covered quite well here. Other potential in the Russian-English role reversal isn't quite as well realized, and ultimately it does all seem a bit too simple. Still, it's clever and fun, and no doubt plays well on the stage.

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Reviews: Michael Frayn: Other books by Michael Frayn under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See the index of Drama at the complete review

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About the Author:

       British author Michael Frayn was born in 1933. He is best known as a playwright. He has also written several acclaimed novels.

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