In Goodness, Jewish Playwright Michael Redhill provides the audience with a less-than-reliable version of himself as narrator. He then takes us on a brief, uncomfortable visit to Poland to explore the loss of his family in the Holocaust and then on to England, where, disillusioned and bitter, he stumbles across the story of a much more recent genocide.
He meets Althea – an ex-prison guard, now living in hiding. She tells him a story of the man she once guarded – a man thought to have orchestrated a killing-spree in her country – a man whose memory has disappeared. At the narrative core of the piece is the old man who may or may not have instigated the actions that wiped out Althea’s family. At his murder trial, he appears to have Alzheimer’s. With no memory, is he still guilty? Or is he faking the disease to escape punishment? Who decides how the story is told? Who is telling the truth? From Pinochet to Saddam Hussein, from Yugoslavia to Sudan, Goodness resonates deeply with the world of the present moment.
In a series of time-shifting tales-within-tales, with actors stepping in and out of roles, Redhill explores what it means to tell, or even know, the truth, and who is able to tell the truth to another. The play suggests a moral continuum that begins with writing, and ends with watching. What is the responsibility of a play? What is the responsibility of its audience? And, as the play itself asks: “Why do good people rush to do evil?”
Premiered at Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, October 2005
Other major productions include the Edinburgh Fringe, August 2006; New York City 2007; Helsinki 2008; Girona/Barcelona 2008.
Canada-wide tour, 2012
Winner of the Carol Tambor Award 2007, and a Scotsman Fringe First Award, 2007
“‘Goodness,’ Michael Redhill’s gripping and important play about genocide, brings to mind Bertolt Brecht, who stripped away theatrical illusion so that the viewer could empathize with human suffering but also observe the cruelty of the historical and social forces that drive our interactions. Brecht’s plays were often epic extravaganzas, but “Goodness,” with its bare stage and few props, has the intimacy and discordant reach of a late Beethoven string quartet.” — The New York Times
“Extraordinary… There’s not a wrong dramatic moment, including the haunting use of a cappella songs. A passionate, enthralling production, not to be missed.” — NOW Magazine (5/5 stars)
“Stories might not be enough, but this story comes close… a play that fearlessly throws itself at the thorniest questions posed by the violent last century and leaves no audience member unscratched… Under Ross Manson’s skillful, simple direction, Goodness works on all its levels.” — The Globe and Mail
“Smoulderingly intense… gut-wrenchingly convincing… you won’t find it easy to forget …” — Toronto Star
“This explosive play, its European premiere presented by Canada’s enterprising Volcano theatre, has genuine emotional texture, is rich in complexity, quirkiness and surprise, and not without brief shafts of wit … I doubt if there will be a more gripping theatrical experience than Goodness at Edinburgh this year.” — The Independent UK
“Searingly intense… a near Pirandellian inquiry into the nature of truth, fiction, speculation and imagined history… Knitted together via a series of role-playing flashbacks by a six-strong ensemble, and with some spine-tingling choral singing derived from South Africa and Eastern Europe, a serious and profound rumination on the weight of moral responsibility in an unjust world goes beyond good and evil to get its man.” — The Herald UK
“I didn’t make many notes when I saw Goodness at the Traverse Theatre, because I spent much of the time with my knuckles in my mouth trying not to make a sound as I sobbed silently. This is an incredibly moving piece of theatre about our ability as human beings to turn love into hate and good into evil …. a stunning piece of theatre… thoroughly modern in conception… a tour de force of theatrical invention … This is theatre that will reveal yourself to yourself, miss it at your peril.” — UK Theatre Net