There's a tell-tale moment in the theatre when I know the play isn't working. It's when I sneak a surreptitious glance at my watch. I'm sorry to say that for this play by Ronald Harwood, it came well before the early interval. Harwood has written some excellent plays and screenplays and I've heard him talk with great insight about the Holocaust and the related themes of the two plays now in tandem at the Duchess Theatre, having transferred from Chichester. The other one, Taking Sides, is about Wilhelm Furtwaengler the conductor, and his interrogation after World War II. I haven't seen it, but I suspect it is the stronger of the two. Collaboration deals with the relationship between composer Richard Strauss and the writer Stefan Zweig, and is based largely on letters between the two. Zweig, who was Jewish, went into exile and killed himself in Brazil in 1942, while Strauss stayed in Germany under Hitler. It never really comes to life, despite some heroic acting (possibly over-acting) by the cast. The veteran Michael Pennington plays Strauss and his wife Paulina is played by Isla Blair, last seen by me as Raisa Gorbachev in a dire play at Hampstead last year. Strauss collaborates twice -- first with Zweig in a rather undramatic expositional first act, which meanders to the interval without a hint of real conflict. At the start of act two a comic-opera Nazi appears in his jackboots to threaten Strauss with dire consequences if he continues to collaborate with 'the Jew Zweig'. To his credit, Strauss refuses to cut his ties with Zweig and insists he is credited as librettist when their light opera Die Schweigsame Frau opens in Dresden. But his idea that he can out-manipulate the Nazis is a silly fantasy, and Zweig knows it. Strauss is partly motivated by the threat to his Jewish daughter-in-law and her children, who survive the war alive. Perhaps the play would have had more emotional impact if they had appeared on stage in the second half? As it is, they remain abstractions. The underlying themes of this play are fascinating ones, even though it fails to deliver the dramatic goods. Is any kind of work of art worth a human life? Are all artists who collaborate with vile regimes for the sake of their art irredeemably tainted? Shostakovich seems to me the most interesting example of a composer who deliberately compromised with a regime he despised at a time when artists were being sent to their deaths in labour camps by Stalin. I would feel deeply uncomfortable questioning the moral choices he made. Artistic vanity can lead to disastrous consequences, however. The best treatment of this is in the film Mephisto, the 1981 film by Istvan Szabo.