Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Arsonists: A Review



by Charlie Albuery
Portsmouth Grammar School’s latest dramatic production was a present-day retelling of ‘The Arsonists’ by Max Fritchz, performed by pupils from Year 10. Having performed in the play, I’m not sure I can give a completely unbiased review, but I’ll try my best.
The play revolves around two separate groups of people. The first consists of the movement-based fireman, played by Josh Arnold, Dom Baker, Aimee Rockett and Zoe Barnes, who performed an entertaining (if not perfectly in-time) mix of clowning and dance set to a vibrant  backdrop of music written specifically for the show. The second is comprised of the arsonists, whose scenes are presented in the form of a traditional play and revolve around Shmitz (a circus wrestler, played by yours truly) and Eisenring (an ex-waiter, played by Hugh Summers) who, while sharing a prison cell, concoct a plan to burn the surrounding town.
They put their plan into action by charming Beiderman (a hard-nosed business woman, portrayed by Bella DeGuisa) into allowing them to stay in the house which she shares with Babette (Emma Read) and their butler, Tom (Cameron Roberts). This is where the – somewhat experimental – set came into play, constructed on two levels connected by a ladder with hidden doors and a painting on hinges that allowed the fireman to pop out of nowhere for comic effect.
Soon after the arsonists gain entry to the house, Beiderman is visited by the police, which leads to the arsonists “singing” (I wouldn’t call the noises I made singing, as such) a song about hair rejuvenator to cover up for the barrels of oil hidden in the attic.
The final scene involves a dinner featuring another one of my ‘songs’ and my shockingly poor impression of a ghost. The play ends with Beiderman handing over her matches to the arsonists as they leave her house.
In general, I would say not all of the audience members “got” the meaning of the play (which, I am told, is one huge metaphor for Nazism) but that didn’t matter as they enjoyed a show that was kept entertaining with a fast pace and some very enjoyable performances. Bella DeGuisa deserves a mention for playing the only non-comedic character in the play and yet not being boring, as does Cameron Roberts for his sudden transformation into a rapper/break-dancer.
I think it was another very successful production for the school and would encourage anyone who has an opportunity to see a subsequent production to seize it.

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