COULD it really be possible for Adolf Hitler's favourite classical music conductor to remain untainted by the war crimes of 1939-45?

Ronald Harwood's intelligent examination of the true-life story of Germany's maestro Wilhelm Furtwangler being brutally brought to book by a loutish US Army major allows the audience to ask themselves the question: "What would I have done in the circumstances?"

Neil Pearson is long enough in the tooth concerning brutish authority figures to carry off the accent and manner of Major Steve Arnold, who believes the only good German is a dead one, because the rest were all Nazi collaborators. Julian Glover, he of Indiana Jones sneering Prussian villainy, actually volunteered himself for the role of Furtwangler. The result is an highly-watchable performance of a proud artistic figurehead finally crushed by the taunts of him doing little while millions of Jews were exterminated in the death camps.

Arnold's zeal, resulting from his previous role as an insurance fraud investigator, sees him inventing evidence to try to trap a man he dubs a "dodgy band leader". Furtwanger's defence of trying to save his country's artistic soul from political tyranny cuts little ice, and we are left with fear of death, pride, or fear of losing his superstar status as the reasons for working with Hitler and his henchmen. Fight or flight remains Arnold's mantra for his prey. But, then, he'd seen Belsen and Furtwangler hadn't.

Viv Hardwick

l Runs until Saturday. Box Office: (01325) 486555.

Published: 20/11/2003