Bent: Arena Theatre Company at Bournemouth Little Theatre

There’s a terrifying familiarity about the kind of blind prejudice and carefully manipulated mob rule that brought the Nazis to power in Germany in the 1930s.

Bent (1)

Martin Sherman’s haunting play Bent was first staged more than  35 years ago. Sadly its message remains timeless. Man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds but there are those spirited individuals who survive…until surviving becomes simply too awful to contemplate. 

Set in pre-war Berlin, Bent explores the persecution of homosexuals that sent shock-waves through the decadent, anything-goes world of the Weimar Republic.

It focuses on Max (Daniel Withey) whose coked-up, drunken excesses are bought to a violent halt when the home he shares with his lover Rudy (Charlie Hall) is raided by the Gestapo and the boy he’s seduced the night before is beaten and shot.

On the run, it is only matter of time before Rudy is also dead. His crime? Being gay and wearing glasses. Along the way Max has discovered his own capacity for brutality, betrayal and worse. He finds himself in Dachau concentration camp cutting terrible deals with the Nazis to stay alive. Tellingly he has bribed the authorities to let him wear the yellow star of a Jew rather than the pink triangle of a homosexual opting for the lesser of two evils in Hitler’s warped catalogue of supposed undesirable behavior. For a while there is hope as the love of fellow prisoner Horst (Ryan Gregg) seems on track to save them both.

With fine direction from Hayley Tucker this Arena Theatre production fields an excellent all-male cast and deals with a difficult subject well. It examines the depths that human-beings can sink to in the grip of a twisted ideology and the resilience, spirit and humour that sometimes helps the victims to survive.

*Arena Theatre will stage a final performance of at the Bournemouth Little Theatre at 7.45pm this evening (Saturday 27th February)

 Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022