Taking Sides

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Previewed 22 May 2009, Opened 27 May 2009, Closed 29 August 2009 at the Duchess Theatre in London

A major revival of Ronald Harwood's play Taking Sides in London at the Duchess Theatre starring Michael Pennington.

Prized by Hitler as the cultural jewel in the crown of the Third Reich, the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler became the perfect post-war target for interrogation as a Nazi sympathiser. In Ronald Harwood's play Taking Sides, Major Steve Arnold, who has witnessed the horrors of Belsen, is about to interrogate the conductor. Taking Sides plays in repertory with Ronald Harwood's new play Collaboration. Written as companion pieces, separate plays designed to complement each other, Collaboration and Taking Sides both explore the fine line between collaboration and betrayal during the Second World War.

The cast features Michael Pennington as 'Wilhelm Furtwängler' and David Horovitch as 'Major Arnold'. The production is directed by Philip Franks with original music by Matthew Scott, designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Mark Jonathan and sound by John Leonard. Michael Pennington's West End credits include Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman (Noel Coward Theatre 2000). David Horovitch's London theatre credits include Sue Townsend's The Queen and I (Vaudeville Theatre 1994).

Taking Sides, Harwood's earlier, punchier piece, has the cut and thrust of a courtroom drama, and also the bonus of more music, a blast of Beethoven's Egmont and Bruckner's Seventh. Set in post-war Berlin, Horovitch is superb as Major Steve Arnold, a tough, philistine American haunted by what he saw when he was sent to liberate the Belsen concentration camp. With intentional insolence, he refers to Wilhelm Furtwangler, regarded as the greatest conductor of the time, as 'the band leader', and is determined to expose him as a Nazi stooge. Pennington's haughty Furtwangler is as enchanted with himself as everyone else is, except the major, who accuses him of staying in Germany because he can't bear to be usurped by the young pretender, Herbert von Karajan. While Furtwangler insists that through music he could promote humanity and justice in the terrible place that was Hitler's Germany, and that he also helped rescue hundreds of Jews, the major suggests the conductor was part of the Nazi propaganda machine that maintained Germans were the best at music. 'What would you have done in my shoes?' the composer asks at the end, rattled for the first time. God only knows, but Harwood makes you think hard about it." The Mail on Sunday

"The Harwoods - as this double bill is being referred to at Chichester - are economically directed by Philip Franks and prove a marvellous showcase for the virtuosity and range of Pennington and Horovitch... If the day belonged to anyone, however, it was Harwood. Here is a playwright who does not himself take sides but leaves it to his audiences to decide whether his characters are good or bad. Such respect for theatre-goers these days is a rare and wonderful thing." The Sunday Telegraph

Taking Sides in London at the Duchess Theatre previewed from 22 May 2009, opened on 27 May 2009 and closed on 29 August 2009 - played in repertory with Collaboration).