Biedermann und die Brandstifter

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Biedermann und die Brandstifter ("a morality without a moral") is a play by Max Frisch (1911-1991).

The original text

The play is subtitled : "ein Lehrstuck ohne Lehre, mit einem Nachspiel", and offers a disturbing image of Western man who allows himself to be engulfed by anarchy without a whimper of protest.

Based on a prose sketch he had in 1948, the play was first written as a radio play (Herr Biedermann und die Brandstifter, broadcast by Bayerischen Rundfunk in 1953), then adapted the stage as a play in six scenes called Biedermann und die Brandstifter (first performed at the Schauspielhaus Zürich on 29 March, 1958). Unhappy with the reception, Frisch then added the Epilogue and the longer play was first performed at the Städtischen Bühnen Frankfurt on 28 September 1958.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into English by Michael Bullock as The Fire Raisers (subtitled "a morality without a moral, with an afterpiece" (published by Methuen, 1962). Also found as The Arsonists or The Firebugs in other translations by Mordechai Gorelik, Herbert Blau and others.

Translated into Afrikaans by Merwe Scholtz as Die Brandstigters for CAPAB.

There is also an Afrikaans translation of the play entitled Jan Alleman en die Saboteurs ("Everyman and the saboteurs") in the archive of the Drama Department at the University of Stellenbosch. It is an annotated prompt script, in which a handwritten note indicates that for the production, "Alleman" was changed back to the original "Biedermann" - i.e. the play may have been performed as Jan Biedermann en die Saboteurs or could be the text used for the CAPAB production in 1978.

Performance history in South Africa

196*: The Fire Raisers directed by Leon Gluckman starring Yossi Graber, Bill Brewer, Jeremy Taylor, Monika van Zyl, Elizabeth Georiades and others. Date unknown, probably between 1962 and 1964.

1964: Bill Tanner directed a production of The Fire Raisers by the University of Cape Town's University Dramatic Society at the Little Theatre in August.

1978: Produced in the Afrikaans translation as Die Brandstigters by CAPAB in April in the Nico Malan Theatre, directed by Pieter Fourie, assisted by Johan Esterhuizen, with Mees Xteen, Neels Coetzee, Marco van der Colff, Marga van Rooy, Johan Botha, Sandra Ferreira, Pieter Joubert, Liz Dick and Willem de la Querra. Design by Raimond Schoop, Jennifer Gillis and Pieter de Swardt.

2004: Performed at the Baxter Theatre 2004, directed by Mark Fleishman, featuring Ivan Abrahams, Jamie Bartlett, Jennie Reznek, Faniswa Yisa, Patrick Mohr, Sizwe Msutu and Hamadoun Kassogue. Music composed by Neo Muyanga, puppets by Janni Donald.


Photographs and other material held by NELM (Gluckman production, date unknown).

Donald Inskip. 1972. Forty Little Years: The Story of a Theatre. Cape Town: Howard Timmins: p.150.

Die Brandstigters theatre programme, 1978

Review by Rafiek Mammon in The Cape Times, 25 August 2004.

Correspondence with Price Coetzee, November 2015

Copy of the typed manuscript of Jan Alleman en die Saboteurs (annotated by , Archive of the Drama Depart,ment, University of Stellenbosch.

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