Gods and Monsters - Theatre (REVIEW)

Lachele Carl, Ian Gelder, Joey Phillips In The World Remiere Of Gods And Monsters 5 Photo Annabel Vere

Frankenstein Director James Whale's story is brought to the London stage.

James Whale was famous for directing the Frankenstein films. But he's also known for being the subject of the hit 1996 film Gods and Monsters. Now it's a play, produced for the first time and currently playing at London's Southwark Playhouse theatre.

The play, as well as the film, deals with the platonic relationship Whale has with his young male gardener in 1950's Los Angeles. Whale (played by an excellent Ian Gelder, and in the film played by the Oscar nominated Ian McKellan) is a man of older persuasion, a bit lonely who only has his housekeeper Maria (Lachelle Carl) to keep him company. One day along comes young reporter Kay (Joey Phillips) who wants to know all about the Frankenstein films. But for every tidbit of information that Whale gives to him, Whale cheekily demands that he takes off a piece of clothing. But reminiscing, not only about his films but also about the time he served in the army, reminds him of when he fell in love with a fellow soldier. And unfortunately, not all is well with Whale, he's got some sort of medical problem, which is confirmed when he goes to see his doctor (Will Rastall).

Enter the new gardener Clayton Boone (Will Austin). He's young, virile, sexy, muscular (perhaps a bit too much), and of course Whale takes a shine to him, asking him into the house for a cup of cold iced tea. Soon enough Whale invites Boone into the house for lunch, then he asks if Clayton would pose for him, as Whale enjoys painting. But Boone makes it clear that it's only the face that Whale will paint as Boone says that won't be taking off his shirt or pose, as he says, "In his birthday suit." But of course eventually Whale gets him to do so, first topless, but then near the end of the show, in a very dramatic moment, at Boone's own insistence does he take off all of his clothes, asking Whale if this is what he wanted, while Whale is in the midst of one of his attacks. Whale gets his chance to seduce Boone but is unable to do so, and it appears that Boone wants to be seduced. Whale gets his wish, a wish that he has pined for, but is unable to do anything.

Russel Labey, writing an original script for the stage, does a good job incorporating the relationship Whale has, or would like to have, with these young men who come in and out of his life. Labey also smartly executes the wartime flashbacks Whale has that include both Phllips and Rasall playing the younger Whale and his love interest. This production is very well done in it's small space, and it is Gelder who carries the show. He's almost a dead ringer for McKellan, very believable in the part and even more so when he's up to seducing the young boys. The rest of the cast is strong as well, though once Austin takes his shirt off its hard to imagine anyone having bigger muscles than him - to say its a bit distracting is an understatement. The male nudity in this show is not gratuitious - all of the young actors get naked - it's all part of telling Whale's story. Gods and Monsters is a well done production - not quite four stars but worthy enough to see.

Gods and Monsters is playing up until March 7th. To buy tickets, please visit:

http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/the-large/gods-and-monsters/