by C P Taylor.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 5 November 2011.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Wed & 25 Oct 2.30pm.
no evening performance 25 Oct.
Audio-described 29 Oct 4pm.
BSL Signed 1 Nov.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 October.
Final play in good enough, if non-definitive, revival..
A play about a Nazi written by a Jewish socialist isn’t likely to be sympathetic. But shortly before his death in 1981, Cecil Taylor made quite an impact when Good opened at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s then smaller-scale London home, the Warehouse (now the Donmar).
Taylor shows an essentially decent German, Halder, being sucked into the Nazi party’s operations. Throughout, he continues his friendship, increasingly brittle as it becomes, with his Jewish friend Maurice, quite confident the anti-Jewish stuff will soon go away.
As someone in Martin Sherman’s play Bent puts it, all Germans are honest, intelligent and Nazis: but each individual has only two of those qualities. Halder, who first catches Hitler’s attention with a book seeming to advocate euthanasia, is not stupid, but he lacks insight.
A mental imbalance is expressed from the start. In his 1946 film Gran Casino Luis Bunuel had a singing trio popping-up in unlikely places. Taylor took the idea further: Halder (the name refers to someone living on a slope) keeps imagining music, an expression (made vivid as the music’s heard, and sometimes musicians appear, on stage) of his mind slipping with his conscience’s readjustments when the Party encroaches on his life.
Friend, mother, wife, all disappear into the fog of his moral journey. Adrian Rawlins brings a busy worry to Halder. He’s physically and verbally active, but memories (for those who have them) of Alan Howard’s deliberative manner with its equivocations, complex ironies of voice as self-disgust and lack of self-belief crept in, suggest this as a plainer interpretation.
And Kerry Shale’s entirely sensible agitation, showing Maurice’s increasing anxiety and disbelief in Halder’s assurances, seems close to Woody Allen in contrast to Joe Melia’s more studied anxiety in the premiere.
Director Polly Findlay uses the sparely-furnished Exchange stage to give a sense of quick-moving situations; though it takes some focus off Halder’s moral decisions, it maroons him as a lone figure.
There’s some fine tenor singing, pointing-up the irony that when the music Halder hears becomes real, it’s a distressed band of Auschwitz prisoners struggling their weakened way through Schubert’s ‘Marche Militaire’.
Band Leader/Doctor: Tim van Eyken.
Freddie/Hoss: Richard Goulding.
Bok/Singer/Clerk/Officer: Howard Hutt.
Bouller/Boy: Pieter Lawman.
Hitler/Eichmann: William Oxborrow.
Anne/Sister/Patient: Beth Park.
Halder: Adrian Rawlins.
Mother: Janet Whiteside.
Helen/Elisabeth: Madeleine Worrall.
Director: Polly Findlay.
Designer: James Cotterill.
Lighting: Charles Balfour.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Musical Director: Tim van Eyken.
Movement: Jack Murphy.
Assistant director: Anna Marsland.