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So we know Professor Halder is on a slippery slope. Taylor’s play gives three-dimensional life to the quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
Director Dominic Cooke distils his production by using just three actors – Elliot Levey and Sharon Small are tasked with playing several roles apiece, often with rapid switches of accent and attitude.
The set is a bunker-like basement that nudges the play away from naturalism towards abstract expressionism.
Yet Cooke’s attempt to universalise the argument somehow neutralises the shock value. Tennant’s weedy, needy Halder is clearly weak from the outset and his eight-year slide from decency to involvement in Kristallnacht and Auschwitz offers few surprises.
Earlier incarnations by Alan Howard and Charles Dance had a steeper gradient down which to plummet.
Halder’s mantra that Hitler’s anti-Jew policy is a “temporary racialist aberration” displays a wilful denial as he wriggles out of culpability through a combination of intellectual detachment, moral equivocation and vanity.
All three perform beautifully and there are a couple of visual surprises that deliver a substantial impact. The sound design, staging and economical casting all suggest that this is unfolding inside Halder’s mind as he replays his descent from humanity to horror in some kind of afterlife.
Good, certainly. But not quite good enough to pierce the heart.
- Good at Harold Pinter Theatre until December 24 Tickets: 0844 871 7622
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