THEATRE / The good, the bad and the ugly: Good - St Bride's Centre

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The Independent Culture
C P Taylor's representation at the Edinburgh Festival has come good with the Glasgow Tron Theatre's perceptive revival of his final play. Good charts the slide of a decent German academic into Nazism. In the early 1930s, Herr Halder lives in relative domestic happiness with his scatty wife. One of his best friends is Jewish, and Halder reassures him that the growing anti-Semitism is only a temporary aberration. It is with only minor misgivings, then, that Halder joins the party; only too late that he registers the sinister nature of their interest in a novel he wrote, which, based on his own concern for his senile mother, could be co-opted into endorsement of euthanasia.

The play's power resides in its detail and subtlety, and its fine exposition of the way integrity can be gradually eroded. Taylor illuminates precisely how Halder's moral confusion, as he slithers into the SS, is tied up with his personal problems. 'You and the children are the whole basis of my life,' he tells his wife at the outset of the play, yet his emotions are shortly to be upended when he falls in love with one of his students. Torn between his lover, his ill mother and his wife and children, while betraying his Jewish friend through small failures of courage, Halder struggles with his conscience. At one point he confesses to the audience that while, on his scale of worries, the problems of the Jews may be high intellectually, emotionally they are a long way down. It is this sort of honesty that makes Taylor's play so alarming.

Taylor's structure weaves flashback upon flashback to add to the impression of disorientation, and uses music to pinpoint Halder's psychological state. In Michael Boyd's expertly paced production, Halder is marooned centre-stage, to be visited by scenes from his past through the many doors of Graham Johnston's panelled set. The music is used wittily, Halder sometimes having to bolt the doors on the bands (who range from charming choirs, to Bavarian thigh- slappers to a Marlene Dietrich in drag) which repeatedly appear to prick his conscience.

Halder is appealingly played by Conrad Asquith with a face like a worried labrador and a helplessness that induces compassion and revulsion by turns. He is handsomely complemented by Fiona Bell as his lover, Anne, who clings to him before he sets out on Kristallnacht, reassuring him with desperation that they are still 'good' people. There are fine performances, too, from Edith Macarthur as Halder's cantankerous mother, Jimmy Chisholm as the smooth SS Major, and Ronnie Letham as Halder's Jewish friend Maurice who, bulging with fear, tries to persuade Halder to fix him tickets to Switzerland by offering him best Jewish cheesecake. It is this sort of pathetic detail that lends the play its chilling power.

Booking: 031-225 5756).

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