REVIEW: Collaboration

PUBLISHED: 12:33 12 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:16 07 September 2010

As a companion to Taking Sides (see review right), Ronald Harwood premiered a second play in 2008, this time about composer Richard Strauss - another musician who was living through the horrors o

COLLABORATION

Duchess Theatre

near Covent Garden

Four stars

As a companion to Taking Sides (see review right), Ronald Harwood premiered a second play in 2008, this time about composer Richard Strauss - another musician who was living through the horrors of the Nazi years.

This story begins in 1931 when Strauss has at last found a lyricist with whom he wishes to work - the Jewish Stefan Zweig and they put together the opera The Silent Woman, which eventually receives its production in 1934.

Indignant at the Nazi's treatment of his Jewish friend, Strauss refuses to remove his lyricist's name from the posters and programmes. As a result of this, Hitler refused to attend the opening in Dresden and the production was banned after three performances.

This also meant interrogation for Strauss and threats levied at his Jewish daughter-in-law and his grandchildren, forcing him to collaborate or at least to put up with the demands of the Nazis.

At that time, the Nazis were the masters of Europe and this power is demonstrated in the arrogant bullying attitudes of the SS officer who visits Strauss - a reflection of the way conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler is treated by the American officer in the earlier play.

But this is a different kind of play from the first - it is less theatrical, more in the modern television style - like a series of vignettes with rapid changes of setting and times which can only be illustrated by large white surtitles which - rather too briefly - flash onto the

back cloth.

The furniture and decor remains the same - only a little shabbier in Act Two. But the action moves from Zweig's home in Salzburg to Strauss's home and makes a final trip to Brazil to record the lyricist's suicide.

The cast is much the same as in Taking Sides and they are again superb. Michael Pennington is a charming, eccentric Strauss and David Horovitch is the professorial Zweig. Sophie Roberts plays Zweig's shy and sweet mistress, Martin Hutson the Nazi bully boy and Isla Blair is the formidable Mrs Strauss.

It is a satisfying play, of course, although for me it didn't have quite the impact of Taking Sides.

Until August 29.

Aline Waites

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