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GOOD by C P Taylor at Manchester Royal Exchange

Published by: Caroline May on 18th Oct 2011 | View all blogs by Caroline May
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C P Taylor’s extraordinary 1981 play tries to explain how a harmless German academic finds himself reluctantly caught up in Hitler’s rise to power, and how he unwittingly becomes an instrument in the atrocities at Auschwitz.

John Halder (Adrian Rawlins) is a devoted family man who teaches German literature, hates the Nazis and whose best friend is a Jewish doctor.  In 1933 he can’t believe that the new National Socialist government will be able to implement its outrageous policies.  Meanwhile his home life is disrupted by his needy, neurotic wife and a blind mother with dementia; and at work he’s distracted by an attractive blonde student who can’t see the relevance of Goethe’s Faust. 

John tries to be good but is torn between conflicting interests, not least his own desire for an easier life.  He tries to comfort his Jewish friend Maurice although he won’t help him; he loves his musical wife but abandons her for the charms of the pretty philistine; he wants to help his disabled mother but hasn’t the patience to care for her properly.

John’s sense of chaos is mimicked by inter-cutting, overlapping scenes, by his confidential asides to the audience, and by frequent interruptions from a troupe of invisible singers and musicians.  Jazz standards, operatic arias and religious cantatas pop out at him from drawers, handbags and coffee pots wherever he goes.

Adrian Rawlins’ Professor Halder is a typical rumpled intellectual, weak but well-meaning – however his selfishness and vanity allow him to be seduced firstly by the  lovely young Anne (Beth Park) and later by the Nazis and their smart SS uniform. 

The entire play revolves around John but he risks being overshadowed whenever Kerry Shale’s charismatic, caustic and comical Maurice takes to the stage.  In fact the entire cast excels, with most of them playing several characters as well as a variety of musical instruments.  James Cotterill’s minimalist design allows for fluidity between the scenes, while throwing in Faustian pyrotechnics and a stunning ending that redefines the opening scene.  Polly Findlay’s direction of this strange musical hybrid of Berthold Brecht and Dennis Potter is pacy and well-characterised.

An accomplished production of a fascinating modern classic.

GOOD is on until Saturday 5 November 2011
Prices: £9-£33
Evenings: Mon-Fri @ 7.30, Sat @ 8pm
Matinees: Wed @ 2.30, Sat @ 4pm
Box Office: 0161 833 9833
www.royalexchange.co.uk

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