GODS AND MONSTERS
by Russell Labey based on the novel Father of Dr Frankenstein by Christopher Bram.
Southwark Playhouse (The Large) 77–85 Newington Causeway SE1 6AD To 7 March 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: William Russell 10 February.
Fifty Shades of Lavender with a sweet smell of success.
A terrific performance from Ian Gelder as James Whale, director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, is at the heart of this impressive play by Russell Labey.
It is similar to the 1998 film starring Ian McKellen as Whale since the source material is the same, but Labey has hewn his own path through Whale’s life.
In his sixties, career in the doldrums, Whale, his long affair with producer David Lewis at an end, lives alone with a housekeeper in late-1950s Hollywood. He has had a stroke, has taken up painting as a hobby, and is raging at his failing mental state.
He becomes obsessed with young, handsome gardener, Clayton Boone, an ex-marine, and persuades him to sit for a portrait. At the same time he is haunted by memories of his youth, a first gay student love affair, and his time in the trenches during the Great War when a young fellow officer dies in his arms.
Apart from his films Whale, who was English, was the first director of R.C. Sherriff’s play Journey’s End, and its 1930 film. Will Austin, a splendidly muscular Clayton, an apparent hard man who is anything but hard, is very good indeed. Boone is taken aback by Whale’s advances, but gradually an odd, chaste friendship begins.
They get strong support from Joey Phillips and Will Rastall playing the young Whale at different stages in his life, as well as his doctor, a past lover, the doomed subaltern and a visiting film studies student intent on an interview.
Phillips is very funny as Kay, student fan from hell, persuaded by Whale to strip garment by garment as reward for answering his questions. Lachele Carl is warm and touching as Maria, the housekeeper who puts up out of love with her lascivious boss’s bad behaviour.
There is rather a lot of male nudity – the two young actors have a roll in the hay and eventually the muscle bound Austin reveals all – none of which is actually necessary. The play would work as well if they all kept their clothes, or most of them, on.
James Whale: Ian Gelder.
Clayton Boone: Will Austin.
Maria: Lachelle Carl
Kay/Young Whale/Barnett: Joey Phillips.
Dr Payne/Tozer/Lt Whale: Will Rastall.
Director: Russell Labey.
Designer/Costume: Jason Denvir.
Lighting: Mike Robertson.
Sound/Composer: John Chambers.
Fight choreographer: Ste Clough.
Accent coach: Simon Money.