David Tennant as John Halder
in Good at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Photo by Johan Persson
056 – Good, by C.P. Taylor
John Halder is a professor of literature at Frankfurt University. He is a cultured and caring man, who is married with two children, and who looks after his mother who suffers from dementia. He lives in dramatic times, because this is 1933, and Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists have come to power in Germany. The professor finds himself drawn into joining the Nazi elite as they pursue their terrible political and cultural agenda. His story is played out in C.P. Taylor’s disturbing, cautionary play, Good, which charts how an ostensibly ‘good’ person can become not just complicit to evil behaviour, but an active participant. The way in which an ordinary individual is caught up in a populist crusade speaks strongly to the dangers of our own time, where pernicious views and misinformation are so easily disseminated.
Good was first staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Donmar Warehouse in September 1981. As we record this episode a new production of Good is currently running at the Harold Pinter theatre in London’s West End, directed by Dominic Cooke and starring David Tennant as John Halder. I’m hugely honoured to have the opportunity to talk with director Dominic Cooke about this original and powerful play, and his new production.
Dominic Cooke is an acclaimed director of stage and acreen. He was the Artistic Director of the Royal Court theatre from 2006 to 2013, where he presided over a exhilaratingly creative period which included premieres of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, Lucy Prebble’s Enron, and Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park to name just a few favourites.
He is an Associate Director of the National Theatre, where his acclaimed productions have included Caryl Churchill’s Here We Go, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Stephen Sondheim’s Follies in 2017, which was nominated for no fewer than 10 Olivier awards, and more recently Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart and Emlyn Williams’ The Corn is Green.
Dominic is also a writer and director for TV and film, having adapted and directed the BBC series of Shakespeare’s The Hollow Crown – The Wars of the Roses, as well as directed the films On Chesil Beach and The Courier, and he is next due to direct a film version of Follies.
Dominic recommended The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare.
The Footnotes to our episode on C.P.Taylor’s Good include observations on Halder’s solipsism, his shameful betrayal of his friend Maurice, and how individual moral paralysis writ large can sanction a political crusade.
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