Bent, written by Martin Sherman in 1979 still resonates strongly today. The story begins on the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in 1934 when Hitler’s order to purge his army of homosexuals began the terrible persecution of the gay community in Germany. Independent Theatre’s small cast of seven actors successfully conjure up the horrors of Nazi Germany and its determined annihilation of both the gay and Jewish populations.
Simple staging plus very atmospheric lighting and sound transport the audience back through time (and the lens of all the war movies we’ve seen) to scenes of humanity and inhumanity, trauma and unspeakable violence.
Rob Croser’s direction and the stark production design by both Rob and David Roach recreate a dark and menacing world. The use of looming shadows throughout is particularly effective.
Matt Hyde’s superlative performance as Max is magnetic, drawing the audience into a rollercoaster of emotions, initially through laughter and ultimately through sorrow. He is strongly supported by Lindsay Prodea as Rudi his home-making partner in Berlin, and Tom Murdock as his fellow concentration camp inmate Horst.
The remaining cast play multiple roles. Wolf played by Eddie Simsepitomises the Nazi ideal of the Aryan male but with the deadly flaw of being homosexual. Patrick Marlin as nightclub owner Greta switches from chanteuse to realist to convince Max and Rudy of the terrible circumstances they are now living in. David Roachas Uncle Freddie injects some comedic relief in a dire situation. All three together with Henry Bleby Williams chillingly convey the unsettling and often violent presence of SS officers and guards everywhere.
There are scenes that will remain in my mind forever – the transport train to Dachau, Max’s confession and his argument for a Jewish yellow star in preference to the gays’ pink triangle, and love and redemption amidst tragedy in the stone yard which moved me to tears.