The Arsonists (2007) Theater


Benedict as arsonist Eisenring in Max Frisch’s play in a new translation by Alistair Beaton.

The Arsonists – also knows as “The Fire Raisers” – was written in 1948 by the Swiss writer Max Frisch, and ran at the Royal Court from September to December 2007 in repertoire with Rhinoceros. Benedict Cumberbatch played the role of the arsonist Wilhelm Maria Eisenring.

What is The Arsonists about?
Gottlieb Biedermann, a wealthy home owner and hair tonic producer, houses peddler Josef Schmitz in his attic, although he suspects that Schmitz is a wanted arsonist. But Biedermann believes in the good in people. When Schmitz takes in his accomplice William Mary Eisenring, and the two begin to gradually hauling several oil drums in the attic, Biedermann gets nervous. Nevertheless, he and his wife fail to get rid of the two, and so Biedermann tries to make himself a friend to the enemy. At a dinner Schmitz and Eisering start to speak openly about arson and their plans. As a sign of trust Biedermann gives them matches and makes himself an accomplice. Then a little later his house and other houses in the area are on fire, he and his wife won’t survive the attack. Ultimately they find themselves in hell instead of heaven, where they weigh themselves in injustice.

More information:
Photos/ Royal Court Official Site/ The Arsonists – Education Pack

“Strong supporting performances are supplied by Benedict Cumberbatch as an icy Eisenring, and Paul Chahidi … There are wonderfully quirky moments too. Recommended.”The Independent

“Ramin Gray’s production, … , boasts first-rate support from Paul Chahidi and Benedict Cumberbatch as the invading arsonists and Jacqueline Defferary as the hero’s worried wife”The Guardian

“It is beautifully performed and inexhaustibly provocative in the best possible way. A famous classic has been restored as though it was a brand new piece of writing.“Whats On Stage

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