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Play by CP Taylor. Directed by Michael Grandage. Designed by Christopher Oram. Lighting by Howard Harrison.
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Set in the 1930's, as Hitler and his Party were approaching the height of their power, Good is a devastating exploration of one man's unwitting and mesmerising descent into the heart of the society that created the nightmare of Nazi Germany.
CP Taylor's extraordinary, haunting play was premiered by the RSC at the Donmar Warehouse in 1982. Now nearly two decades on, this great contemporary classic returns to it's original home in a new production directed by Michael Grandage.
This 1981 play came joint 85th place in the Royal National Theatre's Survey of the Twentieth-Century 'Most Significant' Plays
Donmar Warehouse Theatre previewed 18 March, opened 23 March 1999, closed 22 May 1999
Extracts from the reviews:
"...C. P. Taylor's hypnotic 1981 play, superbly revived in the Covent Garden venue where it was first seen with Alan Howard playing the fictional good man, John Holder. Charles Dance's upright Holder - massive, erect, more blinkered than blinking - is less anguished a portrait than Howard's, and therefore all the more chilling. Holder, whose blind, enfeebled mother (Faith Brook) is ushered by him towards a merciful release, becomes enmeshed with the Nazis after writing a novel which advocates euthanasia. He is just the sort of fellow needed to activate the full-scale extermination programme on humane grounds, and his progress to the gates, of hell is almost imperceptible. Holder's best friend is a Jew (an impassioned Ian Gelder) who asks for his help to leave the country. Dance trips lightly around this request without refusing it. So do we all duck and weave, the playwright suggests, when confronted with apparently simple moral choices and decisions. The show's theatricality, beautifully realised in Michael Grandage's production, stems from Halder's affliction of hearing imaginary bands and music everywhere... Music is a balm for all sores, a soothing compensation. Until we reach a stunning point of no return at Auschwitz, where a band in striped prison uniforms materialises playing a Schubert march. Now Holder really must face the music. Dressed to kill in his black uniform, he stands horrified at the entrance to the death camp." The Daily Mail
"...CP Taylor's 1981 musical comedy, which shows how a decent Frankfurt professor ends up supervising at Auschwitz. It's like an intellectual Pennies From Heaven with jackboots. Charles Dance is eerily convincing as the vacillating professor and family man whose constant yea-saying to the Nazis pushes him further up the chain of command. The economy will pick up, he tells himself, and then they'll lay off the Jews. He junks his slob of a wife for a student - and since she's played with glowing radiance by rising star Emilia Fox who can blame him? Ian Gelder as his Jewish friend (who can't stand other Jews) is also superb. With a dodgy appearance from Hitler himself - John Ramm in Charlie Chaplin mode - events include the burning of books, the night of breaking glass, euthanasia for mental cases and gas chambers. All the Holocaust needed was enough good citizens to shrug and go with the flow. We knew that. It's the musical comedy that papers over the mediocre bits with the macabre. Not as much fun as the movie Springtime For Hitler, but Good ain't bad." The Express
"This was one of the most powerful, politically pointed nights at the theatre I can remember. I was shocked quite near to the core. The play describes one man's moral decline and fall, from apparent grace to ghastliness. Yet Michael Grandage's tremendous production of CP Taylor's Good, given a first London revival since its 1981 premiere, basks in calm and reasonableness. Brutalities of the physical and verbal kind are quite avoided. Taylor's black satire suggests the stealthy process by which the liberal spirit was extinguished in Nazi Germany. He shows how a humane novelist and Professor of German literature could, without qualms, be courted and recruited by the SS to supervise a euthanasia programme, graduating from University to the Auschwitz death camps... The vain Halder, exuding sweet airs of academic moderation, succumbs to Nazi flattery, abandons his best, Jewish friend, Maurice, and assists with the final solution because it's his easy way out of trouble. His conscience is feather-bedded and gradually stifled. It's what happens. It's what people do. Accept the world as it is, he says in his one unguarded and goaded moment, when almost at Auschwitz's Gate. We're both good people, he assures his young mistress Anne (the enticing Emilia Fox) and people who used to be good can still feel fine when following their leader in a soft-shoe shuffle towards inhumanity... With deadly satirical effect Taylor presents the Professor damning Jewish literature and philosophy for selfish individualism, while succumbing to the same vice. Impervious to the confusions and dark comedy of his blind, demented mother, portrayed by the exquisitely affecting Faith Brook, and the sorrows of his dejected, deserted wife, Halder is swamped in self-absorption. Dance, in the best performance of his career, distills Good's shocking essence by portraying Halder as the soul of reasonableness and rationality. Emotion flows so tepidly through his veins that Auschwitz hardly touches him. He swallows Nazism dutifully as if it were a tough tonic to make the nation well again. In 1981 I thought Good made nonsense of Hitler's antisemitism. I eat my old words now. This is one of the key British plays of the last half-century." The London Evening Standard
"...Taylor's hero, Halder, is a Frankfurt literary professor who lectures on Goethe. He seems a shining example of the good man; he is apparently devoted to his wife and children; he does his best to look after his aged mother. He even tells his best friend, who is Jewish, in 1933 that the anti-Semitism of the National Socialists is 'just a balloon they throw up in the air to distract the masses'. But Taylor, in tracing his hero's progress over eight years towards the upper echelons of the SS, plausibly explains the private flaws that lead to endorsement of public monstrosity. Beneath Halder's surface 'goodness' lies a chilling moral detachment; he can abandon his distracted wife for a devoted student; he has written a pro-euthanasia novel; he hears in his head a continuous musical score that helps blot out daily reality... Taylor's point is that Nazism preyed on individual character flaws and on a missing moral dimension in otherwise educated and intelligent people. At first Halder believes he can help 'push the Nazis towards humanity'. Slowly he succumbs to vanity, careerism and the desire for an easy life. Above all, he remains curiously detached from reality. Music, in Taylor's play, also becomes a potent metaphor for self-delusion... the music is heard in recordings looping through Halder's head until the final moment when a Schubert march is played by a real band. Charles Dance is also an excellent Halder, embodying Aryan self-possession but you also notice a strange blank-eyed impassivity in his dealings with his Jewish friend, his wife and mother. Ian Gelder as his self-hating chum, Emilia Fox as his mistress unable to comprehend the evil either in Goethe's Faust or Hitler's Germany and Jessica Turner as the discarded wife lend exemplary support. You can't explain Nazism in a two-hour play. But what Taylor does, quite remarkably, is portray a particular moral obliviousness that in the end made it possible." The Guardian