The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre
October 2, 3, 4, & 5 2019
by Ronald Harwood
2019 BHAC Full Length Drama Competition – Bea Walters Challenge Cup for Best Overall Production
Major Steve Arnold – Sam Razavi
Wilhelm Furtwängler – David Creedon
Emmi Straube – Lucy Mae Knight
Lieutenant David Wills – Luke Mepham
Helmut Rode – Graham Till
Tamara Sachs – Sue Goble
Production Manager – Caroline Woodley
Stage Manager – David Comber
Assistant Stage Manager – Gaby Bowring
Deputy Stage Manager – Julian Batstone
Lighting Design & Operation – Martin Oakley
Lighting Operation – John Garland
Sound Design – Bob Ryder
Sound Operation – Julian Batstone
Costumes – Maggi Pierce
Costumes – Cherry Fraser
Properties – Di Tidzer
Properties – Doffey Reid
Set Design & Construction – Dave Comber
Set Design & Construction – Nigel Goldfinch
Set Design & Construction – Carl Gray
Set Design & Construction – Mike King
Set Design & Construction – Sue Netley
Set Design & Construction – Gary Walker
Set Painting – Sue Chaplin
Set Painting – Margaret Davy
Poster & Programme Design – Judith Berrill
Programme Design – Susanne Crosby
Professional photography – Gary Walker
Publicity & Supplemental photography – Susanne Crosby
Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity – Peter Joyce
Publicity – Maggie Pierce
Promotional film – Phil Nair-Brown
Programme Note #1: Taking Sides
MW writes: “Welcome to a very special play at the Barn. Yes it’s about a pivotal time in world history, more poignant now as we are in the 80th anniversary year of the start of the Second World War; and about genius music creation. But it’s also about a very human dilemma, and very human reactions to extreme circumstances.
Do you do the right thing? What is the right thing? This play shows us that sometimes what looks black and white may be full of grey areas; and sometimes best intentions can save people’s lives – or destroy them. It’s up to you which side you take.
My thanks go to all the cast, backstage staff, workshop team, technical support, property and costume advisors and publicity team for their support and encouragement; and a special thanks to Caroline Woodley. We have enjoyed being part of a committed team, and hope you enjoy the results of their hard work.”
Programme Note #2: Taking Sides
MW writes: “The reality – After the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich in May 1945, Germany was occupied by the victor powers: Britain, the US, France and the USSR. The capital, like the rest of the country was divided. The US and British were anxious to get Germany back to normal and set up investigations into those who had supported the regime to ensure that they were ‘de-Nazified’ and could return to their pre-war occupations. Only a relatively small number were tried as war criminals at Nuremberg. These included leading Nazis mentioned in the play, and these trials were going on at the same time as the action of the play.
In 1946 much of Germany was still in ruins after the War; this was especially true of Berlin. But every effort was being made by Germans to get back to normal. This involved restarting Germany’s cultural life of which classical music was a key part.”
Programme Note #3: Taking Sides
MW writes: “The play – “Taking Sides” was written in 1995 by Ronald Harwood, a playwright perhaps best know for “The Dresser”. It was first performed at Chichester directed by Harold Pinter and subsequently in the West End starring Daniel Massey and Michael Pennington. Since then, it has been staged worldwide and made into a film starring Harvey Keitel and Stellan Skarsgård.”
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: October 3 2019 issue – page 46
Correspondent: Phil Hewitt
Text Header: Drama will challenge you to reflect on your own life
Graham Till loves theatre above all which makes you think.
“I am happy to think about or do comedy, but I would always want it to have some kind of hard interior life that makes you think about your own experiences. Froth is great in theatre, but substance is better.”
And he has certainly got the latter in abundance when he takes to the stage in Taking Sides by Ronald Harwood, directed by Mike Wells for Wick Theatre Company’s autumn production.
The piece centres on the musical powerhouse, conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, one of the most famous and celebrated musicians in the land which is devoted to classical music. His leadership of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and recreations of the music of Wagner, Beethoven, Bruckner and Brahms are seen as the greatest in the world. He was also known to have helped Jews escape from Hitler’s Germany, yet after the war ended, he was investigated for collaboration.
Harwood’s play takes place in the American Zone of occupied Berlin, in 1946. The American De-Nazification Tribunal has taken over the questioning of Wilhelm Furtwängler. As the terrors of Nazism spread, many of Furtwängler’s colleagues fled the country, but Furtwängler mysteriously chose to stay. Did he stay to do as much good as possible in the face of evil or did he stay to serve Hitler?
In the duel between the great conductor and the sceptical US investigator, we are also invited to take sides. As more revelations about the great man emerge, it becomes harder and harder to know what to think ….
It’s a fascinating piece says Graham who plays Helmut Rode: “It is a play that insists in ways that other plays don’t, that we think. It insists that we concentrate and that we transfer what is happening to our own experiences. It makes us think about the moral lessons, about how we would behave. It makes us think about the world round us now. It makes us start thinking about how we make moral judgements and it makes us think that history is important.” Graham senses that it will all have distinct echoes with what is happening in our world today.
There are elements of court-room drama about the play, Graham feels: “You have got the protagonists and the drama comes from that. It is for you to bring it out. It is that court room feel that Harwood has gone for. But the setting is not remotely a court room. It is set in the ruins of post-war Berlin in the makeshift office of the American army major. The American major is brash and loud and vulgar and swearing, When Furtwängler appears, he is this noble, stately, civilised gentleman”.
And so the one is pitched against the other. In the fraught and bitter atmosphere of post-war Berlin, an almost operatic drama is played out which challenges us to consider what we would have done and to make us examine our own priorities.
Graham is playing a man who was second violinist in one of Furtwängler’s orchestras, a man who offers the telling line: “You don’t know what it’s like to wake up to a power so terrifying, so immense, that all you can think of is you have to be part of it otherwise you will be eaten alive.”
As Graham says: “Furtwängler argues with himself as well, whether his action were right. Should he have left before the war? Even he doesn’t know the answers any more than the rest of us. Taking Sides…You can’t just say ‘The major was right. He was a collaborator’. Or ‘The conductor was right. He did what he had to do.’ As I said, it is a play that makes you think.”
Taking Sides will be at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, BN42 4TE from October 2-5, priced at £12. 01273 597094 or wicktheatre.co.uk
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: October 10 2019 issue – page 22
Reviewer: Elaine Hammond
Text Header: Excellent performance for this year’s drama awards
Wick theatre Company in Southwick has put in a strong bid for prizes in the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Drama Awards 2019 with a brilliant production of Taking Sides by Ronald Harwood. It is a challenging text with weighty parts, carried off to perfection bythe experienced cast at the Barn Theatre in Southwick.
The play is set in post-war Berlin, cleverly illustrated in the excellent set. Major Steve Arnold is challenging Wilhelm Furtwängler, determined to prove his loyalty to the Nazi regime. San Razavi was simply excellent as the major, all American swagger, and David Creedon was electrifying as the Germa composer who wants only for art and music to be allowed to continue to provide comfort in these terrible times.
David’s silences and his stillness contrasted so perfectly with the loud stamping, desk slamming and swearing from the major. Both performances were excellent. The constant battle between them held the audience in rapture throughout on Thursday night in what is actually a relatively long play. What was clever about it is that you were left to make your own decisions. It was called Taking Sides but at no point did it take sides, it offered an understanding of both sides of the fence.
And the play was not all intense interrogation either, there was quite a bit of humour in there, brought out beautifully by Wick.
Graham Till showed his skills in thro e of Helmuth Rode, second violinist, who could not quite seem to decide which side he was on. It was the little details that stood out here, little noises, little grunts, little coughs, small things that just made the character.
Thursday was judging night, when adjudicator Kate Dyson, an experienced actress on stage and screen, told the cast it was a wonderful production that left her speechless. “It made me cry at the end and I knew what the ending was,” she said. “I absolutely loved it. I take my hat off to you all. It was so moving.”
She found little to fault, praising not only the acting but the uperb lighting, the set and the costumes, too. Te use of music was clever, opening with Beethoven and continuing with other German greats, using well timed crescendos to add to the drama.
The play was about the language of music and the Wick used it cleverly as part of the language of the play.