July 6, 2020

Can you be a good man and a Nazi?: Review of C P Taylor’s ‘Good’

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing”

– Edmund Burke

Denial, despair, and moral compromise are the overarching themes of CP Taylor’s Good, “the story of how a ‘good’ man gets caught up in the nightmare of the Third Reich.”

Professor Halder (Adrian Rawlins) is a literature lecturer in Frankfurt whose pro-Euthanasia novel attracts the admiration of the Nazi Party. Halder begins falls into a state of spiralling morality when he joins the SS and becomes the party authority on the humanitarian values of the final solution. By the end of the play, Halder stands at the gates of Auschwitz, his order to provide the moral stamp of approval on the death camps.

The play is a tragedy in the form of a musical comedy, an eye-wateringly inappropriate form that illuminates the depths of Halder’s denial and self-deception. Halder is plagued throughout the play by imaginary music that acts as a cipher for his anxieties. As music swells at the gates of Auschwitz, Halder marks the nightmare shift from fantasy terror to reality with his final realisation; ‘the band was real.’ Live music was led by Tim Van Eyken and was a highlight of the production.

Rawlin’s Halder excelled at dramatizing the internal shifts between light and dark. His intensity, however, tended to usurp the focus from the external tragedy, leaving the other characters and the overall messages somewhat on the periphery. James Cotterill’s minimal set was crowded with farcical entrances and exits which it made it difficult to follow the fractured structure of CP Taylor’s narrative. However, the second act moved much more fluidly than the first and by the end of the play, with some excellent performances by Richard Goulding as Freddie and Madeleine Worrall as Helen, Polly Findlay’s directorial debut proved itself, overall, pretty ‘Good’.

Royal Exchange, 04/11/11

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