Review – Bent – straight theatre at its best

Wednesday 15 November 2006

Perhaps it was the Daddy Cool effect (the day after which, anything looks good) but during the interval of Bent at the Trafalgar Studios Andrew made a very rare pronouncement: “brilliant”. Not an epithet Andrew throws around lightly.

He even talked of awarding five stars. By the final curtain, the Daddy Cool effect had begun to wear off and Andrew modified his rating to four and a half (the play is weaker in the second act, moving from exploring difficult moral choices involving sacrifice towards a more mawkish sentimentality) but even so, this is high praise indeed from an inveterate whinger. Phil claims he even saw a tear in Andrew’s eye (did you know that Andrew has only one eye? It’s beady).

Martin Sherman’s 1979 play about gay life under the Nazis in the mid-1930s is a gripping affair and not an easy watch. Both whingers were mesmerised by excellent performances. As Andrew observed: “Alan Cumming has to do an awful lot of acting” (a commodity sadly scarce in the previous night’s entertainment) and WEW left the theatre even fonder of Cumming than they were before. If you haven’t seen it already, check out his hilarious Cumming the Fragrance ad.

Praise also goes to the aptly named Chris New (nominated in the Evening Standard awards as most promising newcomer) who shares the whole of the second act with Cumming and Kevin Trainor who plays his first act lover.

Strong characterisation was let down only by the apparent lack of convincing Nazis in the West End acting brethren gene pool (a problem which also afflicted Cabaret; heaven only knows what the Sound of Music holds).

But this is a minor gripe. The performances and the direction were given tremendous support by outstanding design, lighting and sound. This is one of the most rounded productions seen in the West End this year.

But something’s wrong. Bent has just posted its early closure. while Daddy Cool is booking to September 2007. If a production of this quality can’t survive, then WEW really do have something to moan about.

Look for the silver lining. Bent’s failure to attract the crowds is a double-edged sword. WEW had brilliant seats at a bargain £15 in the second row (the Trafalgar Studios can be a very unforgiving auditorium if you’re not near the front) so its lack of success worked in our favour.

You can benefit too. Bent closes early on 9th December 2006. Get best available seats for just £15 and go.

One final piece of advice. Don’t do as Andrew did and visit Auschwitz and Bent within four days of each other. Each is quite affecting enough on its own.

3 Responses to “Review – Bent – straight theatre at its best”

  1. Kath Says:

    Great review – thanks. Sounds like a good one to go to. But a point you’ve missed out is were there any tasty actors in the production? Some of us are deaf and so can’t hear the dialogue,, and given the crap quality of West End Productions, how good looking the actors are can take on a whole new importance.

    PS… I do hope that WEW doesn’t have the Hello effect…. receive a good WEW review and then watch your show bomb…. I’m sure it’s just a one off.

  2. andreworange Says:

    Kath. The West End Whingers are very concerned that you might want to go to a play set in a Nazi concentration camp in order to drool at the actors. We are the last people to question other people’s taste (actually, that’s not true, we are usually joint first in the queue) but even so…

    However, West End Whingers are committed to operating within the terms of their 80 page diversity policy, and will take your considerations on board.

    Watch out for the forthcoming launch of our innovation for hard-of-hearing WEW fans: this blog in braille.

  3. […] Review – Bent – straight theatre at its best […]

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