Harold Pinter Theatre, London
Written by C.P.Taylor
Directed by Dominic Cooke
The moral narrative that underlies Good is as sound as its title. David Tennant drives the piece as Halder, CP Taylor’s German gentile protagonist, an academic, who we see from 1933 through to 1941 being slowly seduced by and drawn into the Nazi machine.
Tennant’s performance is outstanding and the glimpses of ordinary mundanity that he offers, as at first he disbelieves and then ultimately succumbs to Hitler’s horrific ideology are fine acting. Taylor’s writing however vacillates between the discombobulating psychodrama of the first act, and a second half that sensationalises horror over dramatic structure As Halder implausibly shins the greasy pole of the Nazi machine, over the course of an hour or so Taylor takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the Holocaust that starts with book-burning, moves on to Kristallnacht and ends with a grim finality at Auschwitz. Taylor even includes some conversations between Halder and Adolf Eichmann, just in case the audience hadn’t got the message.
The noble strength of the play is its argument that all it took in Germany was for “good” people to essentially enable Hitler’s horrors and allow the fomenting of antisemitism along with a euthanising contempt for the elderly and infirm.
The flaws of the play – or possibly this specific production – are the bewildering multi-roles foisted upon Tennant’s two fellow actors Elliot Levey and Sharon Small. Levey (himself only recently out of the excellent Cabaret that charts subtly yet brilliantly the Nazis’ rise to power) plays Maurice, Halder’s Jewish doctor friend. There is sound work from Levey, but there was little on-stage credible chemistry of friendship between the pair. And whenever a strand of consistency was developed, it was instantly shattered as the penny-pinching producers swapped Levey into yet another role.
Equally Small, who has to tackle the triumvirate of Halder’s mother, wife and lover as well as a senior male official in the SS fails to suspend our disbelief with so many confusing facets to her onstage work. When late in the second half, and in the role of Halder’s lover, she complements Halder on looking so handsome in his SS uniform, the line is as expected as it is cliched.
Fans of David Tennant will not be disappointed.
Runs until 24th December
Photo credit: Johan Persson