Sir Ian McKellen backs powerful Rugby theatre production

Sir Ian McKellen
Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen has voiced his support for Rugby Theatre after discovering the venue will stage one of his most acclaimed plays.

The film and stage star sent a letter to the Henry Street theatre when he heard they were putting on Martin Sherman’s groundbreaking 1979 play, Bent, which opens on Monday, May 9.

Sir Ian starred in the original West End version. He said: “Since its first production in London in 1979, Bent has educated the world about the ill treatment of gay people in the Nazi labour camps.

“I’m very pleased Rugby Theatre is now going to produce the play. I know everyone involved will be positively affected by the experience.”

Bent is a powerful story of forbidden love set against the backdrop of the Holocaust and is a huge contrast from last month’s sell-out comedy One Man, Two Guvnors.

Show director Nathan Dowling said: “It’s great to have this endorsement from someone of the status of Ian McKellen. Rugby Theatre has a commitment to put on both popular and cutting edge shows, and to be challenging in some of its productions.

“I’m proud to be directing a theatre piece that is raising serious and uncomfortable issues, but within the context of a brilliantly written play. I hope that the audience will have a fantastic experience and learn about a part of history they may not be aware of.”

Among the cast is theatre newcomer Paul Vickers who plays Max, the role taken by Sir Ian in the West End and by Richard Gere on Broadway.

He has been in productions at the Criterion and Albany Theatres in Coventry and has performed at the Loft in Leamington. He said: “I love any sort of theatre that’s controversial and makes an audience think. This is a very truthful and powerful play.

“It has been a very intense play to put together. I go home after rehearsals and slump in front of the telly – and then an hour later I realise I’ve no idea what I’ve been watching because I’m still thinking about the play.”

Ben Handforth, who plays Rudy, is no stranger to the Rugby Theatre stage. He’s starred in The History Boys, La Cage aux Folles and was most recently seen in Hairspray last summer.

He said: “I’m used to comedy and musicals, but this is very different. I have to say it’s the most important play I’ve ever been in. I hope we can take the audiences along with us so they feel it as intensely as we do.”

The show runs from Monday May 9 until Saturday May 14, excluding Thursday. Tickets are available from the Rugby Theatre box office on 01788 541234 or www.rugbytheatre.co.uk