Bent

Play by Martin Sherman. Set amidst the decadence of pre-war fascist Germany, Bent follows a personal journey from the cabarets and clubs of a hedonistic city to the inhuman excesses of a totalitarian regime, as a gay man discovers the true meaning of love and self-acceptance against almost impossible odds.

1979: Original West End London Production with Ian McKellen

1989: West End London Charity Performance with Ian McKellen

1990: London Revival with Ian McKellen

2006: 1st West End London Revival with Alan Cumming

2017: London Rehearsed Reading with Russell Tovey

Martin Sherman's West End theatre plays include When She Danced and Onassis. He has also translated Luigi Pirandello's Absolutely! (perhaps).


1979: Original West End London Production with Ian McKellen

Previewed 26 April 1979, Opened 3 May 1979, Closed 2 June 1979 at the Royal Court Theatre
Transferred 4 July 1979, Closed 3 November 1979 at the Criterion Theatre

The cast at London's Royal Court Theatre and the West End's Criterion Theatre featured Ian McKellem as 'Max', Tom Bell as 'Horst', Jeff Rawle as 'Rudy', Simon Shepherd as 'Wolf' (Royal Court), Terrence Suffolk as 'Wolf' (Criterion), Richard Gale as 'Freddie', Ken Shorter as 'Greta', Peter Cellier as 'Captain', Gregory Martyn as 'Officer' (Royal Court), John Francis as 'Officer' (Criterion), Roger Dean, Haydn Wood, John Francis (Royal Court), and Jeremy Arnold (Criterion).

Directed by Robert Chetwyn, with designs by Alan Tagg, lighting by Robert Bryan, and music by Andy Roberts.


1989: West End London Charity Performance with Ian McKellen

Sunday 25 June 1989 at the Adelphi Theatre

The cast featured Ian McKellen as 'Max', Michael Cashman as 'Horst', Alex Jennings as 'Rudy', Ben Daniels as 'Wolf', Ian Charleson as 'Greta', Ralph Fiennes as 'Camp Guard', Richard E. Grant as 'Camp Guard', Michael Aldridge, and Alexis Denisof, with a large ensemble of around 120 actors.

Directed by Sean Mathias.

A charity performance in aid of Stonewall.


1990: London Revival with Ian McKellen

Previewed 5 January 1990, Opened 19 January 1990, Closed 24 February 1990 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

The cast featured Ian McKellen as 'Max', Michael Cashman as 'Horst', Paul Rhys as 'Rudy', Dominic Rickhards as 'Wolf', Robert Eddison as 'Freddie', Stevan Rimkus as 'Greta', Neil Daglish as 'Captain', David Phelan as 'Officer', Marek Anton, John Atterbury, Christopher Eccleston, and David Hounslow.

Directed by Sean Mathias, with sets by Michael Vale, costumes by Tracy Klyne, lighting by Ben Ormerod, music by Tracy Williams, and sound by Paul Groothuis.


2006: 1st West End London Revival with Alan Cumming

Previewed 22 September 2006, Opened 5 October 2006, Closed 9 December 2006 at the Trafalgar Studios 1 (now Trafalgar Theatre)

A major new revival of Martin Sherman's play Bent starring Alan Cumming

The cast featured Alan Cumming as 'Max', Chris New as 'Horst', Kevin Trainor as 'Rudy', Benjamin Wilkin as 'Wolf', Hugh Ross as 'Freddie', Richard Bremmer as 'Greta', Laurence Spellman 'Captain', Matthew Spencer as 'SS Officer', Ricky Champ as 'Corporal', and Charles Mayer as 'Lieutenant'.

Directed by Daniel Kramer, with choreography by Ann Yee, sets by Robin Don, costumes by Mark Bouman, lighting by Paul Anderson, music by Martin Sherman, Chris Low and Conor Mitchell, and sound by Paul Groothuis.

"Martin Sherman's Bent could easily have dated badly... But the play stands up well, in part because its message about being true to yourself is pretty timeless, and in part because of Sherman's skilfully carpentered script and grasp of theatrical spectacle. Daniel Kramer's production brings out the last quality very effectively from the moment when the first scene's bedroom farce is interrupted by an SS squad sent to murder the young man whom Max picked up the night before... Alan Cumming, despite his star quality, doesn't quite anchor the production. He's good at projecting extremes of emotion, but less good at exuding misery: he seems happiest camping it up in the first act, and even when his spirit has almost been broken in Dachau, his Max is always ready with a roguish grin, and while he pulls off the ending, the production struggles to hold the middle ground between stoic wit and full-blown horror." The Sunday Telegraph

"Set in Berlin in the Thirties, it's the story of closet 'fluffs' Max and Rudy, who are despatched to Dachau. Max quickly realises it's better to be a Jew than gay and, in a scene of sickening brutality, disowns Rudy. Having convinced the Nazi guards that he's straight, he earns the right to wear a yellow star on his prison uniform. In the second half, as he moves rocks from one pile to another and back alongside Horst, who wears his pink triangle with pride, Max realises his sexuality is an essential part of his humanity, and the play becomes crudely sentimental." The Mail on Sunday

Bent in London at the Trafalgar Studios previewed from 22 September 2006, opened on 5 October 2006, and closed on 9 December 2006


2017: London Rehearsed Reading with Russell Tovey

Sunday 9 July 2017 at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

The cast featured Russell Tovey as 'Max', Paapa Essiedu as 'Horst', George MacKay as 'Rudy', John Pfumojena as 'Wolf', Simon Russell Beale as 'Freddie', Giles Terera as 'Greta', Pip Torrens as 'SS Officer', and Adrian Grove.

Directed by Stephen Daldry.

Presented as part of a week-long Queer Theatre event to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.