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Harwood’s WW2 plays transfer to Duchess

Published 17 February 2009

Collaboration and Taking Sides, two plays by Ronald Harwood, will transfer from Chichester Festival Theatre to the Duchess theatre on 20 May.

Michael Pennington and David Horovitch lead the shared cast of the two plays, which were produced by Chichester in 2008 and return there this spring prior to the London transfer.

Subtly linked, the plays explore the fine line between collaboration and betrayal during World War Two and “deal with the conflict between art and politics and the agonizing personal and moral choices that had to be faced by the protagonists” according to Harwood.

Taking Sides, which premiered in 1995, deals with an investigation into the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, who remained conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic during the Third Reich and became the jewel in Hitler’s cultural crown. After the war Furtwängler became the target for vigorous interrogation by the crude, apparently uncultured Major Steve Arnold, who had witnessed the horrors of Belsen.

Written as a companion piece to Taking Sides, new play Collaboration centres on composer Richard Strauss, who, in 1931, embarks on an invigorating artistic partnership with writer Stefan Zweig. However, Zweig is a Jew and the Nazis are on the march.

Playwright Harwood is the author of numerous plays including Quartet, Mahler’s Conversation, An English Tragedy and The Dresser, which he adapted into an Academy Award-nominated screenplay. His other screenplays include the Oscar and BAFTA-winning The Pianist, Being Julia and last year’s BAFTA-winning The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.

Pennington is a hugely experienced Shakespearean actor who has worked frequently with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre as well as founding the English Shakespeare Company. He was seen on the London stage last year in Sweet William at Trafalgar Studios and Hampstead theatre.  

Horovitch’s many stage credits include Absurd Person Singular at the Garrick theatre, Losing Louis at the Hampstead theatre and Mary Stuart at the Donmar Warehouse.

Joining them in the cast is Isla Blair (The History Boys), Pip Donaghy (The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby) and Martin Hutson (The Voysey Inheritance), plus Melanie Jessop and Sophie Roberts.

They are directed by Philip Franks, who is an Associate Director at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Taking Sides and Collaboration play in repertoire at the Duchess theatre until 22 August.

Currently playing at the Duchess is Plague Over England, by Evening Standard critic Nicholas de Jongh, which plays until 16 May.

CB

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