Sunday, 27 January 2013

Bent (theatre)

Martin Sherman's 1979 play Bent is to be Bootcamp Theatre's first production of 2013. Bent explores the persecution of gay men during the Holocaust and despite now being over thirty years old, is still controversial. A theatre in Texas was forced to close in 2009 when it attempted to put on the play. The Bootcamp production is being staged as part of LGBT History Month and I hope the harrowing storyline won't be too strong for Eastbourne audiences.

Max and Rudy are gay men living together in 1930s Berlin. When Max brings home a Sturmabteilung man one night, Rudy is understandably resentful, but his anger soon turns to fear. This is the Night of the Long Knives and when the SS discover and kill the man in their apartment, Max and Rudy are forced to escape the city. They find safety for a while with Max's uncle but eventually are arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau. Max denies his sexuality and relationship with Rudy, believing he will be safer in the camp as a Jew.

Directed by Nigel Fairs (My Gay Best Friend, Secret Honour), the Bootcamp production will star Radley Mason (The History Boys) as Max and Ben Woodward (The History Boys, Art) as Horst. Also in the cast are Josh Impey, Mike Keegan and Bootcamp newcomer Jordan Quigley.

The play contains violence and strong language.

The Little Theatre, Wed 27th Feb - Sat 2nd Mar, 19:45.
Tickets £10 (£9 concessions) available online or by calling 0845 680 1926.

1 comment:

  1. Strong performances from both cast and crew have resulted in another triumph for Bootcamp Theatre with their current production of Bent. Sensitive direction by Nigel Fairs leads us from the louche nightclubs of 1930s Berlin via the horror of the Dachau transports to the prison camp itself. A haunting soundtrack made the stark set feel claustrophobic and barely-there moments such as the German guard sharply swishing the curtain to shut us all in at the start of the second act, added to the authenticity.

    The play is littered with opportunities for unconvincing casts to lose their audiences, nearly all of which were navigated with aplomb by the six talented actors, leaving only the sheer level of exposition in Greta’s scene being unfortunately clunky. Sexuality is obviously an ever-present theme but my concerns about the (verbal) sex scene being awkward were completely unfounded and the tenderness portrayed both between Max and Horst and earlier between Max and Rudy was very real. Scenes of extreme violence are played out with either slow-motion and colour or through sound and reaction, the second of which I believe creates a particularly harrowing experience for the audience as our imaginations take over. Josh Impey as the naïve, tragic Rudy and Ben Woodward as Horst were amazing, and Radley Mason deserves great praise for wringing a sympathetic character out of the inherently selfish and decadent Max.

    I left the theatre feeling quite emotional. Bent does telegraph its action so the major events feel inevitable rather than surprising and I think adds to the overall sadness. In the wrong hands, Bent could be over-sentimental but Bootcamp maintain a level of harshness that prevents this. And, with the aid of a day thinking it over, I do have issues with the ending, but I’ll discuss that elsewhere so as not to spoil it for those going tonight, tomorrow or Saturday – and you should go. This is good theatre.

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