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cranleigh-north-house-play-_the-arsonists_-0412_34020This year’s North House play – with members of West – was a well-produced and brilliantly acted staging of Max Frishch’s, ‘The Arsonists’, which unveiled some hidden acting talent within the houses. It was directed and produced by Tom Chesterman, Will Chambers and Theo MacDonald, with assistance from Will Sherrington-Scales and Mark Jenkins to bring the piece to life. Frisch was, undoubtedly, drawing parallels between the arsonists and the rise of Fascism in Germany which led to the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, and how normal citizens can be taken by evil. This was portrayed with excellence and with a sense of formality by this small cast. Arthur Handscomb conveyed the small town businessman of Gottlieb Biedermann extremely well, showing great maturity in his acting. He was supported by Elsa Hardcastle as Babette, his wife and  Alexine White as their maid, Anna. The Chorus of Fireman provided the moral voice of this production, played with real commitment by Toby Escolme, Marcus Isherwood and Jago Bailey, who comment on the folly that somehow Biedermann is unable to see, whilst capturing the audience’s focuscranleigh-north-house-play-_the-arsonists_-0300_34013 throughout the hour excellently. Schmitz and Eisenring, played by Hugo Puddle and Archie O’Neil respectively, created two very convincing arsonists who make little effort to disguise what they are doing; the more blatant they become, the more Biedermann tries to placate them through increasing acts of hospitality. Overall, North and West provided a performance in stark contrast to the slap stick nature of the first house play making the evening even more engaging as the audience were whisked from laughs to moments of cranleigh-north-house-play-_the-arsonists_-0446_34021solemnity and shock. This production managed to create a real sense of naturalism and as Mark Jenkins said, ‘It is a credit to North and West that these young people have been able to take such difficult material and run with the idea so willingly.’

Ben Claxton
Loveday UVIth