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
Evenings: Mon-Fri @ 7.30, Sat @ 8pm
Matinees: Wed @ 2.30, Sat @ 4pm
Box Office: 0161 833 9833
I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.
Adapted from Christopher Isherwood's semi-autobiographical Berlin Stories, playwright John Van Druten's I Am A Camera focuses on the detached narrator and the hedonistic lifestyles of those around him during the collapse of the Weimar Republic. The play itself went on to inspire the musical show and film Cabaret. Cooke Productions revive this forgotten work in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the death of Christopher Isherwood.
The action takes place in the bed-sitting room of Fräulein Schneider's lodging house in 1930s Berlin. Christopher Isherwood, an aspiring writer, teaches English to make a living. His friend Fritz, a gold digger, is interested in one of his pupils – Natalia Landauer, the daughter of a Jewish department store owner. Soon the capricious night club singer Sally Bowles is moving in and together Chris and Sally struggle with poverty, drink, love and sex under the gathering clouds of Nazi Germany.
Vicky Campbell is wonderful as the volatile Sally Bowles who wears her heart on her sleeve. Her high-energy performance alone is worth the price of the ticket. Mark Jackson gives a definitely un-camp portrayal of Isherwood who was one of the best known homosexuals of the world at that time. Caroline Wildi impresses as Sally’s mother, blaming Chris for Sally’s eccentricities and determined to bring back her daughter to the Home Counties. Erika Poole is very good as Fräulein Schneider, the landlady with a heart of gold who will support her lodgers in any possible way but, representing the simple German people during that time, believes the Nazi propaganda and turns against the Jews whilst supporting Hitler on his rise to power.
Amy Yardley’s set beautifully evokes the Bohemian atmosphere of the time.
Until 29th May
7.30pm Tuesday -
2pm Thursday, 3pm Saturday & Sunday
Tickets: £14 /
All Tuesdays £10
22nd & 29th May - Special £15 tickets available which include a post-show talk on 'Isherwood and 1930's Berlin' with Dr Geoffrey Hicks from the University of East Anglia.
Box Office: 020 7704 6665
The Rosemary Branch, 2 Shepperton Road, London N1 3DT