Reviews Edinburgh Published 18 August 2013


C ⋄ 11th - 17th August 2013

A misfiring revival.

Billy Barrett

Martin Sherman’s 1979 play about the gay men persecuted in Nazi Germany is definitely due a revival – with LGBT rights under attack in Russia and threatened across many parts of the world, this production is a timely reminder of the less talked-about victims of the holocaust. Best known for its film adaptation starring Ian Mckellen, Sherman’s text is a dark but possibly optimistic play about the corrupting influence of power and the hopefulness of the subversive spirit.

Table 9, a new theatre company from the South East, are astute though perhaps overly ambitious in tackling the seminal work for this years Fringe. Whilst their show has moments of atmospheric tension and faultless period costumes that evoke a sense of time and place, under-developed performances and clunky staging mean it often misses the mark.

Bent begins in 1938. Max and his boyfriend Rudy flee Berlin’s gay scene after Krystallnacht, and despite their best efforts to live on the road and under the radar, the SS catch up with them. They’re arrested and transported to Dachau, where the remainder of the play unfolds with graphic tragedy and moments of black comedy. The cast do struggle to negotiate this balance, and the lines often misfire, leading to jarring laughter from sections of the audience.

There’s some odd casting choices; considerable age discrepancies between the actors interfere with character relationships and there’s little chemistry between the two pairings whose star-crossed romances underpin the play. The young actor playing Rudy is probably the most certain in his character – endearingly youthful and camp as a naïve aspiring dancer. Max, who emerges as the play’s protagonist, is given a less captivating performance that struggles to hold the piece together or earn much of our sympathy. The ensemble provide mixed support, with little variation between the ways in which actors play multiple roles; the Nazi guards are frankly a bit innocuous.

Some of the directorial and design choices also just don’t work: screaming silently into the audience over a climactic soundtrack is a cinematic rip-off that does not come off well onstage. Similarly, the electrified barbed wire encircling the camp, which necessitates a pivotal moment in the play, is represented by an unconvincing projected image that is at odds with the rest of the show’s aesthetic. It looks silly, and the aforementioned moment suffers. Whilst it’s difficult not to be moved by Sherman’s script and the cast occasionally match it with sparks of emotional honesty, this is a castrated version of a ballsy play. It certainly still packs a political punch, but Table 9 don’t leave enough emotional impact to forgive their actors’ po-faced lack of a curtain call.


Billy Barrett

Billy is a third year English & Theatre student at Warwick University. Between reviewing and studying he writes, directs and acts in theatre.

Bent Show Info

Produced by Table 9

Directed by Chris Bassett

Written by Martin Sherman

Cast includes Peter Calver, Danniel Horton, Anthony Eglington,Bruce Christie, Steve Bedford, Mark Mear, Paul Crispin




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