In Nazi Germany, homosexual Max (Cumming) is sent to Dachau, his lover killed en route. At the concentration camp, he denies being gay, preferring to wear the yellow star of the Jews, but when he falls in love with fellow prisoner Horst (Chris New), he must make a stand.
Written by Martin Sherman, Bent was first seen in London in 1979 at the Royal Court, when the role of Max was created by Ian McKellen, who also appeared in the 1990 National Theatre revival. The new stage production is designed by Mark Bouman and features a new song by the Pet Shop Boys’ Chris Lowe. Cumming and New are joined in the cast by Kevin Trainor, Benjamin Wilkin, Richard Bremmer, Hugh Ross, Ricky Champ, Charles Mayer, Laurence Spellman and Matthew Spencer.
Overnight critics had mixed opinions about Sherman and Kramer’s bold approach to sensitive issues, which many felt undermined the emotional power of the piece, while Alan Cumming’s lead performance did not totally win them over. But all were full of praise for recent RADA graduate Chris New, making his West End debut as Horst. In smaller parts, Hugh Ross, Kevin Trainor and Richard Bremmer also received plaudits.
- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock