Good is one of the most intense plays we’re ever witnessed. Set in Germany during the 1930s, this ethical drama introduces us to Professor Halder (David Tennant), who initially appears to be a good man. Well educated and respected, with a loving wife (Sharon Small) and children, and a Jewish best friend Maurice (Elliot Levey), he’s opposed to much of what the rising Nazi party stands for, but understands why their populist policies are enjoying some support. Over the course of a couple of hours, under the direction of Dominic Cooke, we explore how a ‘good’ man can become corrupted.
It’s a chilling and completely believable performance from David Tennant – everything he does is entirely ordinary. From his initial objections to the political landscape, to reluctantly joining the party to keep the in-laws happy and blend in, through to his subsequent promotions – every decision he makes seems understandable in isolation. We see him gradually buying into the programme after he is complimented for his academic work, and is afforded a greater role and responsibility in exchange for his loyalty. At no point do we see him buy into the antisemitic ideology, but after a while he seems willing to turn a blind eye.
It’s an intelligent production – intermittently we are afforded flashes of what is playing on Professor Halder’s conscience. Whether it’s a horrified expression on Maurice’s face, or a memory of the band music he used to enjoy listening to, we see a man who is evidently conflicted but chooses to press ahead with what he thinks is right. A scene which sees him agree to take a leading role in the burning of books – he’s advised it’s perfectly acceptable to keep his own personal copies of these books, by an SS colleague who keeps their own contraband collection of jazz records – is particularly effective.
Good is an impressive piece of theatre. Given the rise of populist policies in many political parties around the world, it’s a timely reminder of the dangerous waters we can find ourselves in if ordinary people repeatedly turn a blind eye. It is not simply a case study of one man in one country, however; it considers and exposes the moral flaws within us all. Gripping stuff.
GAY TIMES gives Good – 4/5
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