by Martin Sherman
Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham
When Bent premiered 25 years ago it caused a sensation,
highlighting the largely ignored Nazi persecution of gay people in
Germany from 1934. As much an education as a drama (it taught us
that the Nazis labelled gays with a pink triangle – a symbol now of
gay pride) the play has been gloriously revived in this touring
production by Graeae – a professional theatre company of disabled
people, writes Graham Hopkins.
We follow the decadent and selfish Max as the Nazis mark their
coming to power by deporting homosexuals to a concentration camp.
By betraying his lover on the train to Dachau (and later raping an
underage girl), Max convinces the SS guards that he’s straight and
is labelled with a Jewish yellow star rather than a pink triangle.
In Dachau he meets and falls in love with Horst, whose ultimate
death jolts Max into finally acknowledging his identity.
Jenny Sealey’s astonishing production features two disabled actors
for each of the main parts, allowing for a deaf actor to sign while
the co-actor provides the voice. The claustrophobic set lends a
balletic quality (complemented by the cello accompaniment) that is
supercharged with powerful performances by the leads. Donal Toolan
(voice of Horst) and Milton Lopes (voice of Max) in particular were
mesmerising and should be lording it in mainstream theatre rather
than peaking over the fence from a disabled theatrical ghetto. A
- Bent can be seen at Arts Depot, London N12 (19-20
November) and Drum Theatre, Plymouth (23-27