TAKING SIDES and COLLABORATION
Ronald Harwood double bill at the Minerva, Chichester
“Well, the world sort of forgave him ...” explained one Chichester playgoer to another as we filed pensively out of Taking Sides, the earlier play of Ronald Harwood's diptych on great music under the Nazi regime.
As I watched the play again in this pre-London revival, it was clear that it was really as much about Major Arnold as it was about Dr Furtwangler. The American interrogator with a background in insurance, shadowy unspecified paymasters and an agenda of his own. Is it his world we've inherited, where artistic genius does not set a man apart, where the greatest are driven by the same base motives as the rest of us ?
Arnold, at the end, sinks into the hot seat, and Furtwangler seems to have persuaded another young female admirer to join him for dinner …
Pennington is wonderful both as the tight-lipped patrician Furtwangler and the confused Grand Old Man Richard Strauss, seeking a collaborator, finding Zweig [David Horovitch, also outstanding as Arnold], and hysterically denouncing the exiled Jew's suicide, too, as Collaboration.
Kenneth Baker and actor Martin Turner were both in the Minerva matinee audience, Harwood himself in the evening. As we left, the pantechnicon already had its engine running, presumably to transfer Berlin, Salzburg, Vienna and the rest to the West End. I couldn't help wondering how the immediacy and the impact of these chamber works will survive behind the Duchess proscenium.