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Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah Filled Us In on His (Portable) Mini-Sauna

Photo: David M. Benett/Getty/Dave Benett/Getty Images

While reading Wednesday’s Guardian — specifically, their story on the best 56 ways to stave off boredom during lockdown — one suggestion lit up the Strategist U.K Slack channel in particular. Among the recommendations (which included watching The West Wing, quilt-making, and getting into online poker) was a tip from writer and Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, who told the paper about his portable, mini, infrared sauna. We were immediately intrigued — we have long documented the hunt for a serviceable home sauna — and knew we had to find out more.

Kwei-Armah wrote that while ‘this will not be attainable to everyone’, the model he bought, which ‘costs about £200’, has helped him avoid going stir-crazy. ‘It’s small enough to keep anywhere in your house, and you can fold it up. I stand in it, up to my neck, sweating at 65C for 30 minutes each night’.

My first step was to get in touch with Kwei-Armah via a publicist at the Young Vic, asking if he could shed any light on the model he used. She promised me she would look into the matter. Meanwhile, I also reached out to the Guardian’s Jenny Stevens, who edited the story, to see if Kwame let slip the model or brand during his interview. (Sadly, he did not. ‘It does sound amazing though, doesn’t it?’ Stevens said.)

A quick Google of ‘portable saunas’ brought up several options, including one by Firzone that, at £230, seemed to fit Kwei-Armah’s price range as well as ticking the ‘collapsible’ aspect and reaching the temperature he described, too. Within hours, Kwei-Armah’s publicist returned with an answer: His portable sauna of choice was indeed the Firzone option. In an email, Kwei-Armah said he first started researching portable saunas after an appointment at his osteopath. ‘They had the traditional, wooden saunas, which fit two people,’ he said. ‘And back when I lived in America, I used to visit the Korean spa on a weekly basis — I actually used to do script reading there. So I wondered, could I have something similar at home? What’s the smallest home sauna available?’

He found Firzone after a quick search and bought it ‘immediately’. ‘I keep mine in my office, and honestly, it sounds ridiculous, but it is magnificently therapeutic,’ he said. ‘I use it every single night, and it makes me terribly happy. But more importantly, I believe it unlocks an extra hour of work in me. I sauna, and then, after a brief dip in energy, I find I have the energy for another hour of work.”

According to their website, Firzone is a company based in Cheshire which specialises in infrared heating accessories (the name comes from FIR, an acronym for far infrared ray or far infrared radiation). Firzone say infrared rays heat objects rather than the air between objects, meaning sweating can occur at lower air temperatures compared to other kinds of sauna appliances (such as steam). This also means they avoid creating damp or humid environments — meaning these can safely be used indoors.

Incidentally, during our original sleuthing, we learned the Firzone portable sauna had also been featured in an episode of ITV’s Hard to Please OAPs in April 2019. The show sees older celebrities road test various gadgets to see if they improve their day-to-day lives. The sauna was tested at home by John Sergeant, a former BBC chief political correspondent who has hosted shows like Best British Canals. Although he found the Firzone cumbersome to get out the box, he admitted that “it is one of the best saunas I’ve ever had”.

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We Investigated Kwame Kwei-Armah’s (Portable) Mini-Sauna