Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award nominated play, Bent, discusses the persecutions of homosexuals during the Holocaust and brings to light the great human injustices of that time.
Cut Lunch Productions presents Bent on the 75th anniversary of the start of World War II. Actor Christopher Brown acknowledges the play is not only hugely significant in its historical context but also currently because it shines a light on human rights at a time, Brown says, when the Australian government’s treatment of refugees is shameful and immoral. "Not only that, we live in a country which denies the rights of marriage to same-sex attracted people."
Bent is confronting, but it is also celebratory. There are moments of tenderness, joy, and even a splash of cabaret. And throughout the turmoil we are assured that even in the harshest of environments love will endure. Underlying the horror is a love story and, says Brown, "It is possible to find beauty and freedom in the most unlikely places."
Brown plays Max, a promiscuous gay man in 1930s Berlin who is at odds with his wealthy family because of his homosexuality. The play takes place during and after the Night of the Long Knives (when the Nazi regime carried out a serious of political murders.) Max and his lover Rudy are found by the Gestapo and put on a train to Dachau. It is at the camps that max meets Horst and they become lovers.
Brown says: "Max is crucial to the story in that he is the central protagonist and we see his journey from freedom to incarceration but ironically we see the inverse of this journey in his spiritual growth."
Bent has had many incarnations and has drawn many stars to its cast, including: Ian McKellen, Richard Gere, Ralph Fiennes, Christopher Eccleston and Richard E Grant. It was made into a film in 1997 and starred Clive Owen, Ian McKellen and Mick Jagger.
For Brown, the involvement with this production was a fortuitous meet with director Eddy Segal over coffee and then a beer at the Malthouse cafe. "We had a great chat about theatre and life and about this play and I felt an instant connection with him," says Brown. "It was Eddy’s passion for the project that inspired me to join. Also, I read Bent and immediately loved its structure, the content and the tautness of the language."
Brown has had extensive stage experience working with The Hayloft Project, Melbourne Theatre Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Malthouse, Belvoir, Back to Back Theatre, Arena Theatre, Eleventh Hour Theatre and Stuck Pigs Squealing. He co-wrote and performed his solo show Mr Phase for the Melbourne International Festival. He was also nominated for a Green Room Award for best supporting actor for his work in Yet Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves. He considers his most challenging role to date playing Don Juan in Moliere’s Don Juan in a French language production – difficult, he says, because he is far from fluent. Brown enjoys playing characters that avoid stereotype by being morally complex and ambiguous. "I think the inconsistencies in humans are what make us fascinating and delightful," he says.
Bent celebrates pre-war decadence and exposes horrific intolerance. But at its heart, is a love story – one that takes place in the most unlikely of settings.
September 3 – September 13
Bookings 03 9534 3388
Photos by Ben Wolstencroft