Not a month goes by without another book, play, film, TV program about the Holocaust.
GOODKP Taylor’s psychological drama, which premiered at the RSC in 1981 at the Donmar Warehouse, has always been praised for its gruesome subject matter rather than its dramatic qualities.
Taylor traces the rapid decline of the German nation from civilization to barbarism. 11 million people were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, including 960,000 Jews.
David Tennant plays Halder, a good German scientist who initially joins the National Socialist Party to save his career. He turned out to be an SS officer, taking an active part in the destruction.
Halder’s downward path begins in 1939, when Hitler becomes chancellor. Inspired by his blind and elderly mother, he writes a novel in which he advocates euthanasia for humane reasons. The book catches the eye of Goebbels and Hitler, who are looking for a respectable front for the Final Solution.
At first, Halder tries to rationalize what is happening in Germany, claiming that ethnic cleansing is only a “temporary racial aberration.” As time passes, he begins to think that perhaps the Jews themselves are to blame.
Dominic Cooke’s production takes place in a gray prison cell. The original RSC production had a cast of 10. Now there are only three of them, and two of them play multiple roles, which does not make the play easy for the audience due to overlapping dialogues.
Elliot Levy plays Halder’s best friend, a Jewish doctor who hates Jews, loves Germany and doesn’t want to leave. Levy also plays a Nazi. Sharon Small plays Halder’s mother, wife and lover. The music plays an important and effective role in the production and is especially captivating in the final moments.
David Tennant is a steady and very popular actor. It is his presence in the performance that ensures success Good at the checkout.
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Robert Tanitch reviews C. P. Taylor’s Good at Harold Pinter Theatre, London