Star rating – 5/10
Brecht famously said that for evil to prosper, good men must do nothing. It is this central idea that forms the basis for ‘Good’, the new play at the Royal Exchange, which is based on the novel by C.P. Taylor. It follows the terrible path taken by ‘good’ music- loving university professor Halder, in a series of small steps towards denial, toleration and finally acceptance of the Nazi regime, until finally he ends up working at Auschwitz.
Not having read the book, it is difficult to pin point if my main problem with it was with the source material, the play, or with this particular production of it. Certainly it was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1981 and has been much dramatised since. It is a truly terrible subject, which is just as much relevant today as it was in the 1930’s. And for the Nazis, and any other regime of terror for that matter, to prosper and dominate as they did obviously required lots of nice liberal people to turn a blind eye until it was too late, even people like Halder whose one and only friend was Jewish.
But I found this play difficult to get into, and trivial in all the wrong places, as music came out of desk drawers and coffee pots. I guess I like my drama to be either comic or tragic, and was uncomfortable with this mixture. The scenes seemed to drift in and out of each other, with no clear definition between them. And the same actors played different characters with little signposting, which was sometimes a tad confusing.
The central performance by Adrian Rawlins as Halder was a big ask, being ever present throughout, and there were quite a few fluffs in the first half, although as this was a preview night maybe it’s a bit churlish to mention them. One small but impressive part of a Nazi officer was played by Pieter Lawman, but his gusto and energy just made the other players pale by comparison.
I didn’t quite get why director Polly Findlay required the auditorium to be covered up with red velvet curtains at the start and end of the drama. That sort of negates the point of theatre in the round. So after a great run of quality productions, the Royal Exchange has hit a fallow patch for me with this play. Pardon the pun - but not quite good enough.