Review Round Up: Good, Harold Pinter Theatre

Having been delayed due to COVID, Dominic Cooke’s production finally opens in the West End – but what have critics been saying about it?

(c) Johan Persson

The Guardian: **** “Tennant is spellbinding in his ordinariness, not hiding Halder’s venality yet ensuring he remains human. Levey plays the lovable Maurice first with desperation, when he is begging his friend for help, then with terrible, tragic silences.”

British *** “Although an effective reveal, this diminishes much of the dramatic value of the play, and, in places, the debate is a little over stretched. It’s good to see a play of this calibre rising above much of the frothiness of the current West End, but there are better Holocaust plays, particularly Tom Stoppard’s recent Leopoldstadt. See Good for the tremendous acting, and, whether the play lives up to its title, I would say “in parts.””

Time Out: **** “If the point of Tennant’s performance is his lack of emotion, then Levey and Small are there to provide the fireworks. They do it splendidly in their roles as vulnerable people who lack John’s ability – privilege, I suppose – to simply blend in with Germany’s quesily lurching society.”

Evening Standard: **** “Although grimly funny and studiously banal at times, it progresses inexorably. We all know where it will end, though Taylor – who died aged 52 before the RSC’s original production of Good transferred to the Aldwych Theatre – springs two devastating late surprises. This is an important rather than an enjoyable watch. Kudos to Tennant, Cooke and everyone involved for making it happen.”

The Arts Desk: *** “Director Dominic Cooke has crafted a punchy first act, but he can’t save the second from Taylor’s stodgy script.”

West End Best Friend: **** “Good presents these horrific acts in an all too believable way, keeping audiences engrossed in a narrative that becomes more twisted and frightening the deeper its leading character falls. For an insight into how a person might accept and partake in unthinkable evil, Good is a disturbing and gripping piece of theatre. “

Culture Whisper: *** “Taylor’s making-of-a-Nazi drama remains an important title in the Holocaust canon. It’s a frightening illustration of how susceptible we humans are to terrible regimes, especially when they benefit us personally and enough people around us are supporting them too. Tennant is compelling as Taylor’s fallible traitor, but Cooke’s unnecessarily muddled production won’t hold everyone’s attention.”

The Telegraph: **** “Boasting a remarkable lead performance, this revival of CP Taylor’s 1981 play is a riveting study of introspection leading to malevolence.”

The Upcoming: ***** “CP Taylor’s Good (1981) is a masterpiece of tension and build-up. With a great sense of pacing and thorough understanding of the Nazi ideology, it becomes progressively more intense and terrifying as the drama shows how normal people can be driven towards incorporating a horrific ideology. This version by director Dominic Cooke is no different: featuring a stellar cast and uncanny production, it represents a powerfully harrowing play with some mesmerising performances.”

Broadway World: **** “Taylor’s writing cleverly shows the seduction of an ideology we now see as abhorrent, if we are lazy or indifferent enough not to challenge it. In the turmoil of today’s world, it is this that is the truly frightening thing.”

The Reviews Hub: *** 1/2 “Naturally, it’s not an easy watch but Taylor’s script is jagged and the narrative is initially hard to follow. Complicating matters is Dominic Cooke’s decision to reduce the cast to just three actors. Tennant plays only Halder, but Sharon Small and Elliot Levey play all the other roles.”

The Stage: **** “A chilling production of CP Taylor’s steely work about self-delusion and cowardly justification.”

London Theatre1: **** “David Tennant is outstanding as he accommodates and eventually embodies what Hannah Arendt so memorably dubbed the banality of evil. Playing Halder’s Jewish friend among other parts, Elliot Levey is superb, whether challenging his friend’s complaisant attitude or pleading for support. The third principal is Sharon Small, playing Halder’s wife and other characters that – with one exception – are hard to distinguish: this is unfortunate as Taylor’s script – which took ten years to complete – is complex, with overlapping scenes and dialogue that meshes with thoughts and music.”

London *** “Cooke’s production imprisons us in Halder’s psyche by having minimal set (a bleak stone cell from Vicki Mortimer) and flipping between scenes swiftly via Zoe Spurr’s lighting changes. There are no props, just sound effects for something like Halder and Maurice clinking glasses – or, later, the terrible shattering of glass. Panels in the wall slide open to reveal horrors like the flames awaiting the burning of books. It’s a strong framing, and there are striking, resonant messages within this work, but as drama it unsettles when really it should devastate.”

iNews: **** “There can be no getting around the fact that this is a tough play and without the star wattage of Tennant it would stand little chance in the contemporary West End. He is ably supported by Levey and Small, who deftly demarcate their multiple characters.”

The Metro: ***** “Crucially Tennant’s detailed performance never loses its humanity or its humour, which is really Taylor’s point.  There are no monsters, just people making monstrous choices and doing monstrous things.”

Good continues to play at the Harold Pinter Theatre. To book tickets visit:

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