Dominic Cooke’s new production of Good was due to arrive in October 2020 but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The themes of this play would have been easily compared to Trump’s America and the events in Charlottesville. As it happens October 2022 works even better for the play as the events of the last couple of years in this country are a stark reminder of the potential, seen in horrors of the past.
David Tennant is electric
This version of C.P Taylor’s best-known play is stripped down to its bare roots. All characters, bar one, are played by one of the three named actors - David Tennant, Elliot Levey and Sharon Small. The trio never leave the stage and the set reduces the action to a very limited space at the front of the room. The entire show purposefully feels very claustrophobic and intensifies the writing to great effect.
David Tennant takes on the lead role of Halder, whilst Sharon Small and Elliot Levey take on the characters that revolve around his life. David Tennant is electric as Halder. He portrays the man as in a constant battle with his own belief; not easily swayed, whilst being swept up into the Nazi regime to do the unthinkable. We can see the transformation coming but it is great to experience an actor of his calibre take us there.
Sharon Small is listed as Helen in the programme but this is an injustice as she plays many roles, mostly females but also a major in the army. Although she has many notable moments in the show there is one scene where she repeatedly switches between the women in Halder’s life, often with just one word, to great effect.
Elliot Levey shines as the remaining characters. He is listed as Maurice and this is the character you remember most. Maurice is the Jewish friend of Halder who watches on as Germany, and Halder himself, turn against him over several years. One of his final scenes is a masterclass on how to say so much, whilst speaking so little.
The parallel between Good and our current times is stark. The restrictions on our right to protest proposed by Patel matches one of the first moves by Hitler. The burning of books seems similar to threats against the BBC, and the recent rise of anti-trans rhetoric speaks for itself.
Vicki Mortimer’s set design is perfect in its simplicity. Bare and clinical it suits all settings and the reveal at the end is fantastic. Similarly Zoe Spurr’s lighting works well and helps shift the focus at the right time. The use of the follow-spot during Halder’s ‘lecture’ and at other points of the action, is a great addition. The sound design, by Tom Gibbons, suits Dominic Cooke’s vision but I found it to be so overused it distracted from the play itself. Rather than see a character make drinks we would just listen to the appropriate sound effect. At times it felt like a GCSE student had found the sound effects folder and gone overboard. A crackling fire, a roar of motorbikes, doors opening and closing, a record being played. Looking at the piece as a whole I understand why this decision was made but whilst watching the play I found myself focussing on the decision to do this, rather than the play itself, which is a shame. In the second half certain props began to be used. This worked in drawing our attention to this aspect of Halder’s decisions but, once again, it inadvertently caused my mind to consider ‘why’ this choice was made rather than just being able to appreciate the effect.
Ultimately this is a play I have been thinking about non-stop since I witnessed it, which is the purpose of a piece such as this. I know very little about C.P Taylor’s back catalogue but based on this production I would definitely like to explore his works further.