REVIEW: “Good”, at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, until November 5th.
Box office: 0161 8339833. Website: www.royalexchange.co.uk
Sorry! Just have to say it! “Good” is very good.
It is a very clever and thoughtful play, skilfully acted and wonderfully designed. Written by Glaswegian dramatist C. P. Taylor, it was first produced by the RSC in London in 1981, just months before Taylor’s early death at the age of 52.
It traces the story of Philosophy and Literature Professor John Halder (Adrian Rawlins), struggling with an elderly, demented mother (Janet Whiteside) and an ineffectual wife (Madeleine Worral). His best friend is Maurice (Kerry Shale) a Jewish psychiatrist.
Then Halder falls in love with one of his students, Anne (Beth Park), but all this is taking place in Germany in the 1930s. As he tries to cope with his problems he keeps hearing all kinds of music in strange places. However, it is the insidious effect of the Nazi party that is at the core of this fascinating play.
We have become so accustomed to the rather simplistic historical view of evil Nazis who created the Holocaust. Indeed, it was one of the most appalling episodes in human history. But somehow, Hitler and his cohorts managed to convince a whole nation of reasonable people to follow him. This drama focuses on Halder’s gradual acceptance into the Nazi party and his horribly effective rationalisation of his actions.
Rawlins is superb as the anxious Halder, a demanding part as he is on stage virtually the whole time. Shale is an excellent counterpart as the Jew desperate to escape, and the entire supporting cast are convincing, both sympathetic and chilling. I have to give special praise to the musicians and the sound designer Christopher Shutt for some splendid effects, and to director Polly Findlay for a fascinating production.
It took me about 10 minutes to get into it and then I was hooked. The last line is one of those memorable lines in drama. I will remember this play and it is worth remembering, because even today good men can still be seduced into evil.
PIPPA MUNRO HEBDEN