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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Bent at The Tabard Theatre

I studied Bent at University so was prepared for the gritty narrative and shocking script. I went to see Martin Sherman’s play at the dinky Tabard Theatre in Chiswick, a theatre I have always wanted to visit.

Bent was written in 1979 and offers an insight into the persecution of gay men in Nazi Germany. The word ‘bent’ was the slang term some Europeans used to refer to homosexuals at the time. The original West End production starred Ian McKellen, and Richard Gere was in the first Broadway show in 1980.

The tiny Tabard is a suitable venue for this gripping play, and being so close to the action makes it almost unbearable to watch at times. Russell Morton gives the performance of a lifetime as the moody Max, he seems completely engrossed in the role throughout. Previously in the year Morton won a best fringe actor nomination with the same production at the Landor Theatre. Steven Butler is endearing as Max’s needy partner Rudy, although I did find myself getting irritated by his whiney voice. David Flynn is striking as Horst and works beautifully on stage with Morton. Flynn adds subtle nuances to his character that makes the two men's relationship even more believable.

The cramped space and dark set makes the whole experience terrifyingly claustrophobic. Barbed wire walls trap the characters on stage and two large Nazis trap the audience in their seats. Despite knowing the play I found this rendition deeply disturbing at times, sometimes almost having to cover my eyes. Director Andrew Keates has done an expert job on Bent bringing out the best qualities of Sherman’s play and adding more. I found the whole production deeply moving and thought-provoking and left the theatre teary eyed.

Although the Tabard is small it houses large talent, with this production of Bent fetching many glowing 4* reviews. With a lovely pub downstairs the whole venue has a friendly atmosphere. Throughout August you can see brilliant comedians like Alex Zane and Al Murray performing at the venue.

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