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New Era - The Fire Raisers

6th to 8th and 11th to 15th December 2001.

This is from the NWN.


'The Fire Raisers', performed by the New Era Players, Wash Common, from Thursday, December 6 to Saturday, December 8 and Tuesday, December 11 to Saturday, December 15

It is always a pleasure to visit New Era Players' delightful theatre in Wash Common. This ambitious theatre club perform four productions a year and have earned themselves a reputation of bringing challenging and different plays to their members. Max Frisch's 1950s allegory of appeasement, 'The Fire Raisers', was a particularly apposite choice given today's tensions about terrorists and the 'strangers' within our society.

Originally inspired by the rise of Fascism in Germany and the Soviet subversion of Czechoslovakia in 1948 the play reflects the need for personal responsibility, the eternal struggle between good and evil and the danger of believing that such a thing could not happen here.

The audience was greeted by fire-fighters, checking that we were not a threat to the city suffering from a total collapse from arsonists. These valiant protectors of society (Susanna Mayer, Kathleen Sharrett, Val Maskell, Brenda Agutter, and Peter Knightley) were the chorus offering sage advice and commentary.

We are introduced to the bourgeois world of the Biedermann's household, who are paranoid in protecting their home from the fire-raisers. When the homeless, sinister Schmitz, excellently portrayed by James Winter, seeks shelter, he manages to hoodwink his way into the family and together with his companion Eisenring, finely played by David Tute, they systematically take over the house, planting barrels of petrol in the attic in order to destroy the neighbourhood.

David Zeke gave a splendid performance as Gottlieb Biedermann, aware of his dangerous situation but never prepared to face the inevitable outcome. His wife Babette, wonderfully characterised by Sue Keer (a cross between Mrs Bucket and Linda Snell) was a joy to watch as she wrestled through the turmoil. How did she manage so many costume changes?

In act two we are in the Hereafter. We discover that the two dubious characters visiting Earth are in fact the Devil and Beelzebub, and Hell is going on strike since they don't have an equal share of sinners with Heaven. And so the Biedermanns are saved, but watch out - the devils are returning for their revenge!

Nigel Winter's assured direction kept the pace moving using the stage to its full potential. It was a thought-provoking, entertaining evening.