Bent shows the plight of homosexuality during the holocaust

New production company takes on classic play

Credit: 
Supplied by Scott Forster

A Queen’s alumni has brought the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany to the Baby Grand with the revival of a classic production from the 70s.

Written by Martin Sherman in 1979, Bent profiles a promiscuous gay man named Max living in Nazi Germany who’s forced to undergo unimaginable horrors on account of his sexuality. 

Set in Berlin during Hitler’s rise to power, the plot begins with Max becoming involved with a Nazi soldier, despite being in a relationship with a dancer named Rudy. 

The production essentially takes place in three different locations: Max and Rudy’s apartment in Berlin, a forest near Cologne where they hide from the Gestapo and the Dachau concentration camp. These three segments of Max’s experiences show the hardships of living as a gay man in Germany at the time. 

In Sherman’s play, the outright persecution of homosexual men starts when Hitler kills Rohm, head of the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party dubbed the SA. Fearing this same fate, Max and Rudy flee into the forest near Cologne to hide with the city’s jobless and homeless. In their efforts to remain incognito, the men hide their sexuality, even among the former lowest members of society, so as not to be reported to the Nazis. 

It’s in this forest that Max and Rudy are discovered. Later on a train to Dachau concentration camp, they lose their humanity. 

Rudy is taken away and beaten on the train for being gay and when he returns, Max denies both knowing the man as well as his own sexuality. To prove his claim, the SS force Max to beat Rudy to death.   

This is the point where the set’s focal point — a pile of 

rocks — comes to the fore.

When the couple flees to the forest, the rocks are used as a fire pit, warming and comforting the men. But, when Max arrives at the Dachau concentration camp, the rocks become a form of punishment for him, being forced by the guards to move the pile from one side of the camp yard  to the other. 

At Dachau, Max is told a pink triangle on your uniform was the lowest you could receive as 

it signified being gay. So he, being the wily protagonist that he is, makes a deal to get a yellow star on his shirt so as to receive 

better treatment. 

Later in the play, it’s revealed that Max has been forced by the guards to have sex with the corpse of a dead girl ‘to prove he isn’t queer.’ There’s no humanity for the protagonist anymore, despite his yellow star, no dinner tables or fire pits — just heavy rocks and dehumanizing survival. 

This newest update of the 70s production was undertaken by a Queen’s alum of the Dan School of Drama Scott Forster, BFA ’17, during his masters. His reasons for such a bold and storied choice for his first time at the helm are more than just artistic.

“As a gay man, this play is more than just a historical thing,” Forster said. He came from a small town where the majority of males “played football” and were straight, he said. It just wasn’t something that was out in the open. 

The plotline of a production like Bent can easily be pigeonholed as some distant event that happened long ago in a far away place. It’s for this reason that Forster made the decision to bring back such a trying tale to the stage. 

It’s a powerful, harrowing story that’s as relevant as ever.

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