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Bent – directed by Stephen Bayly

Bent – directed by Stephen Bayly

The main attraction of this production is the acting. The acting and the directing techniques created by acting teacher Sandford Meisner has by now a large number of followers in the Havana theater world, both among the participants at Bayly’s workshops twice a year for the past eight years at the International Cinema School at San Antonio de los Baños and at the Peña Meisner workshop that runs every month, bringing together young and veteran actors who are trying to learn this new manner of getting closer to their characters based on relationships with others. The result of this work introduced and promoted in Cuba by Bayly stages moving and believable performances without a whole lot of spectacular tricks; it bases its effectiveness on theatrical truth that is born from the performance range of the actors.

Rehearsals are calm and measured. The actors work on every scene with all the intensity of a performance and when they finish, the director makes his comments. There is a word of praise for each actor and a piece of precise criticism. Stephen is a living example of English “stiff upper lip” and only when asked for the date of his opening night, you can detect a spark of that anxiety that is synonymous with first-night jitters. “I try not to think of that,” he says. “We still have a fortnight to go.” Bent will be on stage during the entire month of August at the Bertolt Brecht Theater. Due to the magnitude and strength of the script, the play has been included in the CENESEX (the Spanish acronym for the National Center for Sexual Education) programing for the summer of 2014. The author, Martin Sherman, will be present on opening night and this undoubtedly places more pressure on the team. Of course this isn’t the first time Bayly faces Cuban audiences; “Las tumbas olvidadas” and “Blue/Orange” have already been seen by full-house audiences in Havana and Bayly promises a fourth play next year, when he plans to work with an all-female cast, in contrast with Bent that has an almost exclusively male cast.

This interview, taped right after a rehearsal, was a real pleasure listening to this man who knows and loves his job: film producer and director. He was the director of the National Film and Television School in the United Kingdom and he is a teacher with a genuine calling for the profession that makes every conversation into a learning opportunity. One question leads to another and time literally flies. When we have finished, Bayly leaves me with the happiness of having looked into his blue eyes and the almost adolescent enthusiasm of acting under his direction.

August 2014 This article formed part of the August 2014 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.

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