There can be little doubt that Martin Sherman’s Bent is an important play. Not only is it a powerful piece of theatre – portraying as it does the persecution of gay men in Nazi Germany – it also served as a wake-up call to the wider community about that atrocities that were committed, atrocities that had largely been ignored by academics, politicians and the public.
This new production, sensitively directed by James Corrigan, has widely been lauded in the previews as being one of the best pieces of student drama to be presented this year. In all honesty, I cannot but agree with this. Overall, it is a polished and well-acted piece of work. I could perhaps have wished for a richer evocation of early 1930s Berlin and some of the scene changes could be made slicker but these minor quibbles do not detract from the achievement of this young team – many of whom could well be making the step up into the professional ranks once their degrees have been completed.
Chris Greenwood gives an impressive performance in the central role of Max. He never falls back on stereotyped ‘queer’ acting and brings a sincerity to this character which never fails to keep the audience engaged. He is well matched by Matt Gavan as his young lover Rudy – whose nervous energy is palpable and touching. Joe Eyre (Horst) brings a humanity and brave physicality to his role. All three are at the top of their game throughout.
I will confess that the events on stage brought me to tears on two occasions. It is a powerful piece of writing that has been staged with intelligence and clarity of vision. Amidst the horror and brutality, there are moments of warmth, humour and eroticism. The scene where Max and Horst make love with no physical contact only their words and imaginations is particularly well-handled – the way the actors use their faces and bodies shows an attention to detail above and beyond their years.
I believe that the author was present for opening night. I am certain that he would have been impressed by the quality of work on display. I know I was.