Mr Monkey sees GOOD at the Royal Exchange Theatre, 17th October
Mr Monkey scampered into Manchester for the press night of C. P. Taylor's GOOD at the Royal Exchange Theatre.
Mr Monkey studied the posters carefully, and couldn't help but be reminded of an optician's chart. Before collecting his humans' tickets, Mr Monkey scurried up into the Mezzanine Gallery to see Primitive Streak.
GOOD is a thought-provoking play about Dr Halder, a professor in a German university just after the National Socialists have won the 1933 election. He doesn't like the Nazis, but thinks their anti-semitism is just a pose and not to be taken seriously. His mother has dementia, and his wife appears to be suffering from depression.
Halder has started hearing beautiful music and seeing imaginary performers at apparently random moments, and has written a book, based on his experiences with his mother which, while fiction, makes a strong case for compulsory euthanasia of the mentally ill. As this agrees with Nazi ideology, he is approached by the Party to write articles which will make it look as if normal people agree with them.
The play continues, episodically and non-chronologically, through Kristalnacht, the beginning of WW2 and the invasion of the Soviet Union, to opening of the death camp at Auschwitz.
Arriving at his seat, Mr Monkey was surprised to find the stage shielded by a red curtain. You don't expect to have a curtain at a theatre in the round, and, because the seats are so close to the acting area, the curtain gave an ominous and claustrophobic feeling.
The set, when revealed, is minimal, with a few pieces of furniture for each scene. Many pieces perform multiple functions - Halder's wife cooks goulash on what was his desk a moment before, and a downstairs couch turns into an upstairs bed because there's a different person on it.
Once more the Exchange has given us a play that has music as an integral feature and requires skilled live performance. The various bands and musicians haunting Halder throughout the play are excellent and perfectly synchronised; Mr Monkey found this particularly impressive.
There was a surprising amount of humour in the first half but it gives way to an increasing, and not unexpected, feeling of doom after the interval.
As Dr Halder, Adrian Rawlins is onstage throughout the entire production, and he is excellent as the somewhat weak and self-justifying professor. Rawlins' has to switch from one scene straight into another, from a conversation in the present to thinking aloud about the past, whilst delivering asides to the audience and being interrupted by the musical episodes, and he performs this with impeccable timing. The rest of the cast support him well, most actors playing at least two parts. Mr Monkey was interested to see Kerry Shale as Maurice, Halder's Jewish friend, as he's heard him often on Radio 4 but never seen him. Mr Monkey wasn't disappointed.
Mr Monkey enjoyed GOOD, though he was never totally convinced by that play was actually about the seduction of a good man. Mr Monkey suspects that being 'good' requires more action than simply not being 'bad', and that if Halder had been really good he wouldn't have written a book about his mother that endorsed Nazi ideology, and wouldn't have squealed with glee when he found out that Hitler liked it.