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In 2004, British playwright Michael Frayn’s award-winning play Democracy achieved both critical and commercial success, despite its seemingly dull premise: German politics in the 1970s.

I watched the performance in London at the time, utterly mesmerised as the play toggled between two themes. First, the highly charged political drama — the fall of left-wing West German chancellor Willy Brandt and the complexity of coalition politics and high treason in the chancellor’s office...

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