As bombs fall and bullets spray outside, Belgian writer Amelie Nothomb allows us a peek inside, behind closed doors, into the subtle atrocities of war away from the heroism of the battlefields. Set in a cold, bleak house, a literary professor has invited two young people into his home, Daniel, his assistant and Daniel's fiancee, Marina.
The set consists of a wall of hanging books - a timeline of the action. The fire needs fuel so the volumes are chosen one by one to be thrown into the furnace. Nothomb's play uncovers individual suffering, sexual misdemeanor, intellectual conflict and an inconclusive competition between academia and real life. The characters cling to certain books in an attempt to preserve a fraction of beauty in the face of so much death and destruction and the stories parallel their struggles until the last is burnt and fragments of humanity are also swallowed into the depleting fire.
Miriam Hughes plays the sexually confused, lamenting teenage girl who suffers from the freezing cold very well, although she sometimes stumbles over her tongue-twisting words. Edmund Kingsley's role as the troubled and over-zealously moral Daniel, however, is the more promising. Although on the whole well directed, the company has fallen prey to the trap of including movement to music for its own sake - a trend that doesn't always add to the performance. But although slightly hindered by its level of presupposed literary knowledge, this is a well written play and Nothomb a writer to look out for.