Review: The Fire Raisers

3 star rating
An enjoyably droll revival of Max Frisch's play that seeks to highlight complacency, even in the face of the glaringly obvious, and still bristles with unsettling relevance.
The Fireraisers at Hen and Chickens Theatre

Image: Hen and Chickens Theatre

Closes here: Saturday 17 November 2018

Max Frisch

Michael Ward

Michael Ward

Michael Ward


Gottleib Beidermann - Darren Ruston

Anna/ Chorus - Elena Clements

Jospeh Schmitz/ Chorus - Marius Clements

Babette Beidermann/ Widow Knetchling/ Chorus - Angela Loucaides

Wilhelm Eisenring/ Chorus - Jake W Francis

Policeman/ Doctor of Philosophy/ Chorus - Brian Eastty

Leader of the chorus - Nicholas Bright


Award winning company Theatre of Heaven & Hell presents "The Fireraisers" by Max Frisch with original songs and live music.

Described by many as an epic parable-comedy, it tells the story of two arsonists disguised as door-to-door salesmen who talk their way into Gottleib Biedermann's house.

The Fireraisers reminds us of the dark allegory that "Today's bad ideas are tomorrow's disasters …".

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 8 November 2018
Review star rating image

Songs and musical accompaniment from a chorus of firefighters kick-start this version of Max Frisch's play, presented here by Theatre of Heaven and Hell, now regulars at the Hen and Chickens Theatre.

The chorus of firefighters are an essential element in a peculiar tale of just how disbelieving people can be - ready to ignore or opt to believe the opposite of what they are explicitly told is going on.

The play is set in some central European town around the late 1940s and most of the action takes place in the home of Gottleib Beidermann, a businessman who sells hair tonic.

On the face of it, Beidermann is a cigar-chuffing, comfortably-off entrepreneur who cares little for those less fortunate than himself, and also cares little for his customers since the hair tonic he sells is basically inefficacious.

He's ready to turn away from his door a hawker, Schmitz, who fetches-up ostensibly looking for some food and a place to rest.

However, once Schmitz wheedles his way into Beidermann's home he prises more from his host than the mere slice of bread and glass of wine offered him, and promptly takes up residence in the attic.

Before long, Schmitz is joined by an unemployed waiter, Eisenring, who has recently been let out of prison.

The two attic dwellers set about installing large drums of petrol at the top of the building with the clear intention of burning the house down - hence, the title of the play.

Though the two fire raisers make no secret of their objective, Beidermann chooses to believe that they are merely joking, even if it's also crystal-clear that he's wary and suspicious of the men.

There's always a strong sense with Theatre of Heaven and Hell that they enjoy their work immensely and that is certainly the case again here.

The company ably tackles odd, unusual or absurdist plays, offering new audiences the chance to experience them and breathing new life into the works.

Apart from the labour intensive effort of orchestrating his acting team, director Michael Ward also found time time to compose effective music and lyrics for his production.

And he also manages to fit in two locational settings, some large metal drums as well what seems to be a harmonium into the relatively small stage area.

Though this revival lacks a little finesse at times, it reveals Max Frisch's work as cleverly and astutely written, and the production as a whole is droll and well-considered, with watchable and enjoyable performances.

Given the nature of political developments around the world, Frisch's play still bristles with unsettling relevance and in many ways is a disturbing parable that, in spite of the contrived nature of the humorous plot, finds its mark in highlighting the dangers of political complacency.

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