Bent (play)

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Bent (theater).jpg
Poster for the Royal National Theatre's 1990 revival of Bent, starring Ian McKellen
Written byMartin Sherman
Date premieredMay 3, 1979 (1979-05-03)
Place premieredRoyal Court Theatre, London
Original languageEnglish
SubjectThe persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust
SettingBerlin, 1934 following the Night of the Long Knives

Bent is a 1979 play by Martin Sherman. It revolves around the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany, and takes place during and after the Night of the Long Knives.

The title of the play refers to the slang word "bent" used in some European countries to refer to homosexuals.[1] When the play was first performed, there was only a trickle of historical research or even awareness about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. In some regards, the play helped increase that historical research and education in the 1980s and 1990s.[citation needed]


Max, a promiscuous gay man in 1930s Berlin, is at odds with his wealthy family because of his homosexuality. One evening, much to the resentment of his boyfriend Rudy, he brings home a handsome Sturmabteilung man. Unfortunately, it is the night that Hitler orders the assassination of the upper echelon of the Sturmabteilung corps, to consolidate his power. The Sturmabteilung man is discovered and killed by SS men in Max and Rudy's apartment, and the two have to flee Berlin.

Max's uncle Freddie, who is also gay, but lives a more discreet life with rent boys to satisfy his desires, has organized new papers for Max to flee to France where homosexuality is legal, but Max refuses to leave his naïve boyfriend behind. As a result, Max and Rudy are found and arrested by the Gestapo and put on a train headed for Dachau concentration camp.

On the train, Rudy calls out to Max as he is taken away to be beaten, so Rudy is brought back and beaten to death by Max, who denies he knows him. Max lies to the guards, telling them that he is a Jew rather than a homosexual, because he believes his chances for survival in the camp will be better if he is not assigned the pink triangle. Max later confesses to a fellow prisoner that the guards then forced him to have intercourse with the body of a dead pre-teen girl to "prove" he was not homosexual.

In the camp, Max makes friends with Horst, who shows him the dignity that lies in acknowledging what one is. They fall in love and become lovers through their imagination and through their words. After Horst is shot by camp guards, Max puts on Horst's jacket with the pink triangle and commits suicide by grabbing an electric fence.


Bent premiered in London in 1979 at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square, London, the production later transferring to the West End. Ian McKellen played Max and Tom Bell played Horst.

In 1997, Martin Sherman adapted Bent into a film of the same name, directed by Sean Mathias.

Subsequent production history[edit]

The play featured Richard Gere as Max, David Marshall Grant as Rudy, James Remar as Wolf, Michael Gross as Greta, George Hall as Uncle Freddie, Bryan E. Clark as Officer, David Dukes as Horst, Ron Randell as Captain, and the Guards were Kai Wulff, Philip Kraus, and John Snyder.[2]
  • 1980 - Bent was premièred in French at Le Théâthe de Poche in Brussels (Belgium) in January 1980, in a French translation by Lena Grinda, directed by Derek Goldby, with Alain Libolt, Jean-Pierre Dauzun, Yves Deguenne, Pierre Dumaine, Fabrice Eberhard, Bernard Graczyk, Thomas Hutereau, Jean Couvrin, Tobias Kempf, and Roland Mahauden. There was a rerun in September 1998.
  • 1981 - The first production in Brazil was in 1981, at Teatro Villa Lobos (Rio de Janeiro) with José Mayer (Max), Tonico Pereira (Horst), Ricardo Blat (Rudy), and Paulo César Grande. In spite of the fact that Brazil was then a military dictatorship, Sherman's text was presented uncensored.
  • 1981 - A further French production in Paris, with Bruno Cremer, Jean-Pierre Sentier, Didier Sauvegrain and Jean-Claude Dreyfus.
  • 1981 - The show made its Seattle premier at the Empty Space Theater, and ran through 1982.
  • 1981 - The first Canadian production of Bent was in 1981 at the Bathurst Street Theatre, Toronto, Ontario, in English; it starred Richard Monette as Max, Brent Carver as Horst and Jeff Wincott as Wolf/Kapo.
  • 1983 - In Israel, the play was first produced in 1983, and has since been revived on five occasions, most recently in 2018, at the Israeli National Habima Theatre.[3] It reportedly caused riots in Israel, due to the controversial subject matter.[4]
  • 1983 - The play made its Minneapolis premier at the Minneapolis Children's Theatre black box theatre, directed by Mary DeMartino, and was the most successful black box production of the season, running for three weeks.
  • 1989 - Sean Mathias directed a revival of the play, performed as a one-night benefit for Stonewall, featuring Ian McKellen, Richard E Grant, Ian Charleson, and Ralph Fiennes.
  • 1990 - After receiving critical acclaim for his 1989 one-night revival, Sean Mathias directed a full run, with Ian McKellen, Paul Rhys, and Christopher Eccleston, which won the City Limits Award for Revival of the Year.[where?]
  • 1993 - 24 performances in the round were produced by Diversionary Theatre in San Diego, California.
  • 1993 - A production in Liège, Belgium opened on February 1993 at Thèâtre Le Moderne, directed by Daniel Henry. There was a rerun in November 2000 with Michel Delamarre as Horst.
  • 1996 - A production of Bent ran at the Annex Theatre in Toronto, produced by Upstart Crow Theatre Company. Directed by Walter Young, the production featured Philip Cairns as Greta and Darren Stewart-Jones as Rudy.
  • 2000 - The play was presented by Theater in the Round, Minneapolis, MN[5]
  • 2000 - A production in Buenos Aires, Argentina, opened in September 2000 starring Alex Benn, Gustavo Ferrari, and Gustavo Monje.
  • 2001 - Bent was presented at Cornell University by Risley Theatre, Ithaca, NY. It was directed by Shira Golding, with Hans Vermy as Max.[6]
  • 2003 - Bent was presented by Singaporean theatre company Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble, directed by Beatrice Chia.[7]
  • 2004 - Presented by Graeae Theatre Company, the production's director was Jenny Sealey, and the performances combined audio description, sign language, music and physicality.
  • 2005-2006 - Presented by Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco,[8] the production was dedicated to the memory of Pierre Seel.[9]
  • 2006 - At the Trafalgar Studios in London, starring Alan Cumming as Max, and Chris New as Horst.
  • 2007 - There were several productions in this year: the 13th Street Repertory Company in New York City production was directed by Joshua Chase Gold, and starred Ryan Nicholoff as Max and Jim Halloran as Horst; it received strong reviews and had sold out audiences.[10] The Meta.for Theatre production at Performance Works in Vancouver, British Columbia, starred Seán Cummings as Max and Thrasso Petras as Horst.[11][12]
  • 2009 - Bent was presented in Amarillo, Texas by AVENUE 10, causing the theater to be targeted by an anti-homosexual Christian group Repent Amarillo, who shut down the venue by tipping off local law enforcement.[13] Bent made its Cincinnati debut at New Stage Collective, and later the play was presented by Pandora Productions of Louisville, Kentucky. A production was staged at Stanford University by STAMP, the Stanford Theatre Activist Mobilization Project, co-sponsored by the Emma Goldman Society for Queer Liberation. In June, there was a production by Theatre Engine at the Abrams Studio Theatre in Toronto.[14] and later the play was produced by Hubris Productions at the Greenhouse Theatre in Chicago, with original music by John Kamys aka Jinx Titanic. This production was sanctioned by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and a portion of the proceeds from this show benefitted the museum. In September the Rhodes University Drama Department in Grahamstown, South Africa presented a 30th anniversary revival of the show as a Masters Coursework examination. Diversionary Theatre in San Diego, California staged a production in collaboration with ion theatre company, and Altera Vitae Productions presented the Montreal, Quebec premiere in November 2009 at L'Espace 4001. Directed by Carolyn Fe, the cast included: Christopher Moore, Adam Leblanc, Vance de Waele, Serge Turcotte, Mark Waters, and Yves Jacquier. In November, the play was produced by Fullerton College's theatre arts department.
  • 2010 - A French language production in Paris opened on April 2010 and ran for three months, followed by a month in the Avignon French Festival, directed by Anne Barthel starring Michel Mora as Max, Jean Matthieu Erny as Horst, Valentin Terrer as Rudy, Philippe Renon as Greta, Matthieu Karmensky as Wolf, Gérard Cheylus as uncle Freddie and Fréderic Morel as SS Guard. This version is considered by the author to be the most faithfull to his own text.[citation needed]
  • 2010 - Focus Theatre presented a revival of Bent at the Belvoir St Theatre in Sydney as part of the Mardi Gras festival. Cardinal Heenan Drama [Sam Kane & Joshua Hale] performed Bent in Knotty Ash Hall, Liverpool, and Oxford University students presented an amateur production of the show in the Keble O'Reilly Theatre. Bent was performed at The Landor Theatre in London, directed by Andrew Keates. The production was a success, and was transferred to The Tabard Theatre, Chiswick for a further six weeks. An amateur production was presented at The Questors Theatre in Ealing, London, and the play was staged at the Lowry Theatre in Saint Paul by the Actor's Theatre of Minnesota. Kidbrooke School and Specialist Arts College, London, staged an A-level Showcase production of the play. At the Rivoli Theater in South Fallsburg, New York, Bent was produced by the Sullivan County Dramatic Workshop and directed by Constance S. Slater; the production was sponsored by the Arthur A. Slater Memorial Fund and starred Matt Meinsen as Max, Rich Hotaling as Horst, and Jim Pillmeier as Rudy. It received four acting awards from The Theater Association of New York State and was recognized as the drama of the year by the Times Herald Record. Later that year, the play was staged in California by the Long Beach Shakespeare Company, directed by Denis McCourt,[15] and also at Frostburg State University in Maryland, directed by Linda McCulloch.
  • 2011 - Bent was staged at the University of Kent, Canterbury and by the Columbia Entertainment Company, a community theatre in Columbia, Missouri.
  • 2011 - A production at El Centro College in Dallas Texas was directed by Daniel Scott Cates starring Patrick Patterson-Caroll, Benjamin Webster, Bruce Roe, Meg Hargis, Gerrardo Zubiri, Dean Armstrong and Justin Darnell.
  • 2011 - A second production in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, opened on 2011, starring Augusto Zacchi, Gustavo Rodrigues, Augusto Garcia, Breno Pessurno, Miro Marques, Henrique Pinho, Vinicius Vommaro, and Evandro Manchini.
  • 2012 - A production at Hart House Theatre, in Toronto was directed by Carter West, and featured Ryan G. Hinds as Greta and Nathaniel Bacon as Wolf. A production by the University of East Anglia Studio in Norwich was staged by the Minotaur Theatre Company, directed by Michael Liam Dolan, and starred Thomas Wingfield as Max, Jonathan Moss as Horst, Elliot Hughes as Rudy, Eliot Ruocco-Trenouth as Wolf, Ashley Fullerton as Greta and Josh Allan as Uncle Freddie. In Baltimore, Maryland, Bent was produced by the Mobtown Players Theatre Company, and in Somerville, Massechutsetts the play was produced by Theatre@First, directed by Nick Bennett-Zendzian, and starred Jason Hair-Wynn as Max, Zach McQueary as Horst, Rocky Graziano as Rudy, J. Deschene as Greta and Ben Delatizky as Uncle Freddie.[16] The Lace Market Theatre production in Nottingham, United Kingdom, was directed by Roger Newman and starred Paul Johnson as Max, Damian Frendo as Horst, Lewis Brookbanks as Rudy, David Wills as Wolf, Jim Brooks as Greta and Piotr Wisniewski as Uncle Freddie.
  • 2012 - A production in San Juan, Puerto Rico, opened in June 2012, starring Teofilo Torres, Leonardo Castro, and Tony Torres.
  • 2013 - A California Institute of the Arts Coffeehouse Theatre production was directed by Fran Bennett, and starred Jeffrey Scott Basham as Max, James Michael Cowan as Horst, Mathew Joseph as Rudy, Emilio Garcia-Sanchez as Wolf, Anatoliy Ogay as Greta and Kevin Whitmire as Uncle Freddie. Pace University Performing Arts in New York staged seven sold-out shows at the Schaeberle Studio; it was directed by Ruis Woertendyke and starred Dominick Pate as Max, Riley Galt Suter as Horst, Jesse Keitel as Rudy, Zack Signore as Wolf, Nick Sanza as Greta and Jade Ziane as Uncle Freddie.
  • 2015 - The play was presented by the Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, directed by Moisés Kaufman, starring Patrick Heusinger as Max, Andy Mientus as Rudy, and Charlie Hofheimer as Horst. Jake Shears wrote original music and starred as Greta.[17]
  • 2015 - A Polish production in a translation by Rubi Birden premiered in Warsaw Teatr Dramatyczny on October 2, 2015 starring Mariusz Drężek, Kamil Siegmund, Piotr Bulcewicz, Piotr Siwkiewicz, and Maciej Wyczański.
  • 2017 - A production was staged at the Bryant-Lake Bowl in Minneapolis.[18] The oldest cast member was 23 years old, with a number of performers still in high school.[19]
  • 2020 - A production of Bent was staged by Dublin University Players at Trinity College Dublin as part of their LGBTQ festival, Glitter.

Scholarly works[edit]

  • Melissa C. Lupo (2010). The Political Repercussions of Homosexual Repression of Masculinity and Identity in Martin Sherman's Bent (Thesis). Cleveland State University.


  1. ^ "A load of pony – queer meanings in Cockney rhyming slang".
  2. ^ Vagg, Stephen (August 10, 2019). "Unsung Aussie Actors – Ron Randell: A Top Twenty". Filmink.
  3. ^ "Bent". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  4. ^ Woods, Gregory (1998). A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 255. ISBN 978-0-300-08088-9.
  5. ^ "Bent - Minneapolis/St. Paul - reviews, cast and info - TheaterMania". TheaterMania.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Toy Factory Press Room: The Straits Times LIFE! Review of Bent Archived 2010-04-08 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Theatre Rhinoceros Presents Martin Sherman’s Bent
  9. ^ Bent by Martin Sherman December 8 - January 7
  10. ^ Playbill News: Bent, with Nicholoff, Halloran, Worley and Hornsby, Begins Limited NYC Run Oct. 10 Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Xtra – The news is queer". Xtra.
  12. ^ BCNG Portals Page (R) Archived 2007-07-01 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Wilder, Forrest (24 February 2010). "He Who Casts the First Stone". The Texas Observer. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Bent – Theatre Engine at the Abrams Studio Theatre". 27 June 2009.
  15. ^ Moore, Greggory. "BENT: LB SHAKESPEARE CO. FINDS THE HUMANITY IN STORY OF ITS SUPPRESSION". Greater Long Beach. Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  16. ^ "Bent: A Play by Martin Sherman" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-04-19.
  17. ^ "Bent | TheaterMania". Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  18. ^ "Bent". Bryant-Lake Bowl. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  19. ^ Arty Dorman (September 2, 2017). "Bent: Geki Arts with Bryant Lake Bowl Cabaret Theater". Talkin' Broadway Regional News & Reviews. Retrieved 2018-11-24.

External links[edit]