Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 17. July 23, 1968
Drama — Bring a little water now
Bring a little water now
Max Frisch calls his play The Fire Raisers "A morality without a moral". In this variation on the theme of the search for the real face behind the mask, the audience is left to draw its own moral. The play can be interpreted as a criticism of Nazism; but its message has far wider application than this. Its strongest point seems to be the immorality of sitting-on-the-fence appeasement.
The play utilises the structure of traditional morality plays wiih Biedermann as Everyman, and the Fireman and the Fire Raisers symbolising the forces of good and evil. Schmitz and Eisenring, The Fire Kaisers, act largely as foils to Biedermann's emergence as the real villian, emphasised by his treatment of Knechtling. Frisch makes a definite statement against the uncommitted and those lacking in strong moral conviction in his presentation of Biedermann's inability to face the truth and the empty intellectualising of the Doctor of Philosophy. Frisch's point has relevance for our time in that if Everyman does not speak out he may be the villian.
This recent production was an excellent choice by the Drama Club although, unfortunately, the presentation was not entirely successful. Chris Thomson, the producer. placed the Chorus very effectively and on the whole gave the cast good moves; but the production often lacked the pace which such an episodic play requires. Ian McDonald's sound effects were excellent, though some-times a little loud. The Chorus, however, did less than justice to his music. The paperback edition of the play available In New Zealand names the Chorus as Firemen and prints their lines without any mention of how they are to be performed. To cast women and to have them sing these lines was a brilliant idea.
Two performances stood out from the rest: Paul Holmes as Gottlieb Biedermann and John Dean as Schmitz. (The programme swapped the names of the actors playing Schmitz and Eisenring.) Paul Holmes acted extremely well throughout, and the only time the Chorus was really effective was in their scene with him. John Dean's unpleasant characterisation never faltered, and he must be congratulated on his fortitude in consuming the quantities of food which the realism of the production required.
John Banns as Eisenring and Margaret Richardson as Babete Biedermann on the whole acted well; and Anita Woolf gave a suitably pert performance as the maid. Anna, although she was Sometimes difficult to hear. The rest of the characters, and the Chorus in their effective costumes, acted adequately most of the time; but the production cannot be called an unqualified success. The play was. however, an interesting one. and it is a pity there was not a larger audience to be smoked out by the excellent pyrotechnies at the end.