first night

Bent

Bent shows us humour and humanity in the face of unimaginable suffering. Grace Cheatle reviews...

3D Theatre Company

A harrowing tale of love and loss under the Nazi regime, 3DTC's production of Bent does not fail to move. Initially faced with the basic set of a cluttered 1930s living room, there is little indication of the agonizing fate which awaits the characters of Rudy (Rory Quinn) and Max (Greg Silverman). The pair work well as a couple, with their believable bickering and the undercurrents of resentment conveyed nicely by Silverman. Both had elements of the camp about them, but this was never a trait that became overbearing, instead assisting the more comic aspects of Sherman's script. At points Quinn's child-like temperament does become grating, but in being so immature, he highlights the characters naivety, demanding compassion from his audience.

It is in the play's darker moments however, that the professionalism and power of the acting becomes simply undeniable. The claustrophobia of the train to Dachau is almost palpable. Sarah Peters' direction throughout is highly effective in creating an atmosphere of absolute fear, without the need to see the horrific scenes we know are occurring off-stage. The entire ensemble manages to retain this aura of terror which further intensifies the piece as a whole. The intimidating presence of the guards is ever-pervading in the production, each of whom oppress the scene with considerable menace. Whilst Kate Hunter and Charlie Warner wonderfully encapsulate the hardened prison warders, a marvellous subtlety is seen in Elizabeth O'Connor's performance - a guard as equally stunned and moved as the audience by the undertaking of these men.

After the swift and seamless scene changes of act one, the shocking transformation of the stage into a stark portrayal of a Nazi concentration camp is eminently striking. The audience view the remainder of the play through the barbed wire fencing which stands at the front of the stage, a constant reminder of the characters own isolation and torturous experience. The bleak stage allows the audience's attention to be wholly paid to Max and fellow inmate Horst (Joe Leather). Leather is absolutely compelling throughout the latter half; with an enchanting vulnerability and his darkly comic lines timed perfectly, he is truly mesmerizing. The blossoming relationship between the two men is heart-rending as the selfish guise of Silverman's Max melts away, and he manages to honestly depict a man just terrified of falling in love.

Leather and Silverman's ability to form a connection between the characters, with no exchange of eye-contact, is quite remarkable. The 'making love without touching' scene was one of the most memorable parts of the production, perhaps because, though a little uncomfortable to watch such intimacy, it was also so indicative of the deep affinity the two men share. Despite the fact that  the second half basically consists of two people shifting rocks around, both actors and director were able to keep dialogue pacey when necessary, but without losing any of the intense emotion which underpins the script.

The final moments of the production are overwhelmingly tragic - beautifully caught in the terror-stricken eyes of Leather, and the uncontrollable sobs of Silverman - the eerie foreshadowing of Greta's (Karim Mariey) song lingers from the first act; 'Streets of Berlin, will you cry out if I vanish into thin air?'. The audience is left with a painful, haunting scene, one which touches both cast and audience member in its poignant immediacy.

 

****

Grace Cheatle

3 February 2012

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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