The Fire Raisers

November 1999

by Max Frisch, directed by John Palmer


Gottlieb Biederman - James Stonall

Anna - Louise Morin

Schmitz - Jerri Hart

Babette Biederman - Maggie Butt

Eisenring - Andy Brodie

Policeman - Cass Thorne

Widow Knetchling - Clare Girvan & Mary Collins

Doctor of Philosophy - Stanley Guffogg

Chief Fireman - Gordon Halliday

Firemen - Rose Gander, Peter King, Tim Burgess, John Marshall & John Calendar

Production Team:

Director - John Palmer

Stage Manager - Jerri Hart

Assistant Stage Manager - Stanley Guffogg

Lighting - Stuart Yerrell & Aleksis Gailans

Sound - Ron Murray

Costumes - Isla Morgan

Props - Rose Gander, Rosie Stuttard, Jean Halliday & Mary Collins

Set design / construction - Stuart Yerrell, Tim Burgess, Jerri Hart, Clare Girvan, Andy Brodie, Brian Bowker, Chris Williams, Cass Thorne, Rose Gander

Front of House - Lynn Leger, Maggie Butt & Geoff Brace

Publicity - Jean Halliday

Programme and Poster - Norman Lonney & Jerri Hart


From Estuary News:

...evenness of acting ability, the intelligence of the direction and the effectiveness of the set, sound, costume and lighting design. It was great...

Max Frisch wrote The Fire Raisers in the late 50s and set it, I assume, in Germany or Switzerland - but it is a play which can be true of any time in any place. A city is being terrorised by a mysterious group of arsonists; the houses of the wealthy and respectable go up in flames for no apparent reason and without warning. Fire Watchers, the 'Guardians of the City' have been appointed [and appear on the stage like a Greek chorus to comment on events], but in spite of their presence, the fires continue.

The Fire Raisers is a play that demands extremely tight direction and acting that combines farce-like comedy with real fear and tension. John Palmer's direction of the Estuary Players in the Matthews Hall in November fulfilled these demands superbly. The set, silhouetted against a fiery sky, was excellent ... simply the black outline of a city skyline. The production operated on three levels a scaffolding platform to represent an attic, the stage floor as the main living area and the auditorium floor for the chorus of Fire Watchers.

The action takes place in the house of Herr Biederman [convincingly played by James Stonall] and his dim wife [Margaret Butt] who find themselves becoming the unwilling but unavoidable hosts to two men who, it is perfectly obvious to the rest of us, are the fire raisers. These two, played by Jerri Hart and Andy Brodie, manage to combine being highly sinister with being very funny indeed.

All the performances were excellent and the whole company worked together as an impressive team where everyone hit the mark. The main characters, although they are written as stereotypes, were completely convincing, so that one could understand why they allowed two suspicious strangers to stay in their house, even when they knew they were collecting huge drums of petrol in the attic!

The minor characters, too, were excellent ... I particularly enjoyed the utterly silent Widow Knetchling, played by Clare Girvan and Louise Morin's maid. But the main point about this production was its evenness of acting ability, the intelligence of the direction and the effectiveness of the set, sound, costume and lighting design. It was great.

- Reviewed by: Sara Vernon