Bent was first performed as a staged reading in 1978 and reading groups could set up their own. The first full production took place in London in 1979. Ian McKellen played Max and Tom Bell Horst.
In 1934, Nazi Germany, Max is living with a dancer, Rudy, while he frequents nightclubs, picks up and brings home one-night stands. One evening the flat which he shares with his boyfriend, Rudy, is raided by the Nazis and the latest man Max has brought home is killed. Max and Rudy escape to Berlin to avoid arrest. The Gestapo finally locate them and they are put on a train headed for Dachau.
Rudy lets slip that he and Max are in a relationship and he is beaten to death. Trying to protect himself, Max denies he knows his partner and sets out to show he is not homosexual. Imprisoned with Horst, Max learns the importance of acknowledging the truth. The two become lovers but Horst is ill and the Nazis have no time for sick inmates who cannot work.
Please note that some of these questions will act as spoilers for the play.
1. who is the central character in this play?
2. what do we learn about Max as the first scene unfolds? Is he a sympathetic character?
3. what part does Greta play in the story and what do we learn about Berlin from his opening scene?
4. how far does the play encourage the audience to make judgements on the actions of individuals or groups?
5. why does Max wear a yellow star?
6. is it possible to claim that Max and Horst have become lovers even though it is impossible for them to make love?
7. when do the lovers realise that they are going to die?
8. is the play a story of tragedy or triumph?
You can use HMDT resources to find out more about the Nazi persecution of the gay community:
- Listen to our podcast with Ben Summerskil, Chief Executive of the charity Stonewall