The Fire Raisers


IT is said that, for evil to triumph, it is necessary only that good men do nothing. In The Fire Raisers, by Swiss dramatist Max Frisch, at the City Arts Centre, the people are not even good. They are selfish and compliant, on the make at the expense of everyone else; and when the ultimate evil comes their way, they do not recognise it until it is too late. Herr Biedermann, a successful business man in a city subject to mysterious outbreaks of arson, has an odd visitor. Joe is a vagrant, but through a mixture of cajolery and obscure menace, is given a berth in the attic of the house. Soon he is joined there by Willy, a suave ex-convict. The pair make it plain that they are storing petrol and explosive devices, but their host and his wife simply look the other way.

The city duly burns, and there follows a sardonic epilogue set in hell, which is about to go on strike. It seems that all the fat cats have got into heaven, where they are busy making deals. The city is renewed by those who, having an income above a certain level, are clearly guilty of something. The Biedermanns seem to be off the hook, but Joe and Willy, princes of the underworld, are about to return to earth to prepare for the fire next time. It all makes for absorbing and entertaining drama.

This excellent production by the Fourth Wall company, directed by Brian O'Hare against lain Stanley's imaginative set design, does the play ample justice. The three lead roles - Michael McInerney's Biedermann, Shane Lynch as Willy and Karl Sheils as Joe - are interpreted in depth with fine performances. They are very well supported by Majella Horan, Helena Walsh, Louis Lovett and a chorus of firemen.