Review: David Tennant in Good, Harold Pinter Theatre - "there is a brutal and uncomfortable honesty in the absence of bravery and action"
A victim of rescheduling because of theatre lockdowns, Good, starring David Tennant, finally gets in front of an audience but is it worth the wait?
Tennant is a household name because of his screen work, but he is also a seasoned stage actor, taking on an eclectic mix of roles from Hamlet to Don Juan in Soho, so expectations are high.
Good is set in Germany during the rise of Nazism and the Second World War. Tennant plays John Halder, a literature lecturer, novelist and liberal. His best friend Maurice (Elliot Levy) is Jewish.
John has a busy life; his elderly mother has gone blind, his wife can't cope with the day-to-day, and he suspects a mutual attraction between him and one of his students (all played by Sharon Small).
He is a mild and ordinary man in many senses; he works, he visits his mother, cooks for his family, is a hands-on dad and spends time with his friend.
Through his verbalised internal monologues, we see his human flaws; the lapses of attention and care when he's talking to others instead focusing on himself. And he falls into an affair with his student.
He's not a perfect human but what you might describe as good at heart.
However, Cecil Philip Taylor's play puts the idea of 'good' under the spotlight exploring the slow and subtle indoctrination into Nazi ideas.
John is an inert character in that he doesn't seek out change or advancement in his life and career. He responds to what comes his way but doesn't challenge or resist. He believes that the Nazi's abhorrent policies will be short-lived - something to 'distract the masses'.
As events unfold and Maurice's position looks increasingly precarious, John continues to rationalise the treatment of the Jews and his response - or lack of it.
In watching Good, the stark moment of revelation comes in a scene when John gets dressed for work. It brings the discourse and reality clashing together, leaving you feeling like you've been sleepwalking through what has come before. It's a powerful point and cleverly done.
Tennant is superb in his gentle, often understated portrayal of John's ordinariness against a backdrop of familiar historical horrors. There is a brutal and uncomfortable honesty in the absence of bravery and action, the desire instead to rationalise and maintain the status quo. It leaves you questioning what it means to be good.
His is also a technically complex performance, delivering snatches of inner monologue while in conversation with other characters. Elliot Levy and Sharon Small are equally adept at switching between multiple characters.
It is a demanding play, one you have to follow closely to keep up as it bounces between different conversations while the actors remain the same. And it's a profoundly thought-provoking play.
Good was definitely worth the wait, one of the most interesting plays I've seen in a while.
It's getting ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ from me.
Would love to know what you think, if you've seen it.
Good, Harold Pinter Theatre
Written by Cecil Philip Taylor
Directed by Dominic Cooke
Running time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, including an interval.
Booking until 24 December; for more details and to buy tickets, head to the ATG website
Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre, booking until 5 November ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Eureka Day, Old Vic, booking until Oct 31 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Theatre in the diary:
The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes, BAC
King Hamlin, Park Theatre