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Holding Fire! review

by: Marcus J Freed - Last updated: 2007-08-28

Holding Fire!

Holding Fire!

The Globe theatre is full of opportunities and pitfalls but Holding Fire! makes terrific use of the space and Mark Rosenblatt’s new production makes a strong impact. This passionate production interweaves several stories from early Victorian Britain as a social revolution is beginning to take place.

Rosenblatt is part of the new generation of Jewish directors on the London scene, with past successes including The Dybbuk at the Battersea Arts Centre and The Last Waltz Season at the Arcola.

Holding Fire! tells the story of Lizzie, a Victorian pauper who travels from a London slum to become a servant in a wealthy home. She finds herself caught up in the nascent Chartist movement who are trying to revolutionise the country by bringing about universal suffrage.

The sheer amount of violence, pain and negotiation involved give this play a much greater significance beyond its context. The fight for ordinary people to have the right to vote and participate in a form of democracy mean that the play’s Victorian context has strong resonances with Iraq and that in many ways the battle still continues.

Although Holding Fire! is a challenging play and demands the audience’s attention to follow the sometimes intricate narratives, Rosenblatt’s inventiveness means that we are engaged at all times. Audience members are unwittingly used as members of parliament, Victorian gentry or viewers at a public execution, and this total theatrical experience provides another triumph for the Globe.

Holding Fire! by Jack Shepherd, director Mark Rosenblatt. Until October 5 at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. www.shakespeares-globe.org