Bent is an arresting and difficult play, both for the audience and for the performers. However, this production lacks the emotional depth or sense of timing in order to pull it off successfully.
The story sees the protagonist, Max, sent to a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. It is of course a difficult tale to watch but there was no subtlety to this performance, meaning that the emotions that one should be overflowing with at the end are dampened. None of the performers had the gravitas to pull off minor characters such as SS officers, which lessened the seriousness of the situation considerably, as there was no real fear of the Nazis. Although the part of Rudy, Max’s lover in Berlin, was well-played for the most part, the comic lines of the first half of the play were often wasted, as there was little attention given to comic timing.
However, it is the love between Max and Horst, a fellow homosexual in Dachau concentration camp, that was the most disappointing, with very little emotion ever portrayed by Horst. The first utterance of ‘I love you’ was almost throwaway, leaving no time for impact and sounding utterly disingenuous. Whilst Max was able to convey much of the mix of emotions throughout, they were not particularly believable. Even his hangover at the beginning of the play seemed forced and his pain and torment at the end seemed a pale ghost of what the scene should have been: utterly heart-wrenching.
It is undoubtedly a tricky play to perform, demanding extreme talent in order to deal with such a difficult topic. Furthermore, the script is often very repetitive - requiring a variety of inflections in the voice to make the phrases sound interesting and an emotional intensity to make the repetitions believable. The use of music in the final scene was the only hard-hitting emotional contribution. Meanwhile, scene changes were bizarrely long even when there were no props to move around, making the narrative disjointed and destroying any momentum which could help to build the poignancy of the final scene. As it was, the topic and the script was beyond the capabilities of the performers.