Gods and Monsters Review Southwark Playhouse
Gods and Monsters tells the story of James Whale, the British director made famous by the string of Frankenstein films made in the 1930’s.
Now, some twenty years later, the retired film director is resting in his Hollywood home, enjoying the occasional company of young men. The period this play is set in was a dark time for homosexual men; being gay was illegal and there was no internet and no easy access to pornography. Men would get their kicks in any way they could – if this meant befriending a local boy and inviting him to swim in your pool to satisfy an urge then so be it.
The marketing campaign for Gods and Monsters has been a simple yet effective one: Sexuality. Pictures of Will Austin have been floating around the internet promoting the show and with his bulk, muscular physique, it is no surprise it has caused a stir. Sex sells and if you want to put bums on seats, the best way is to sometimes guarantee you will see some (male) flesh. However, whether there is more obvious substance to this play than the odd penis is uncertain.
The story is there and the message is a good one; the man who created a monster in films has become a senile monster himself, lurching over young boys under the pretense of wanting to paint their pictures. There were some nice flash back moments where two scenes were played out together which generated pleasing juxtaposition. This also helped to fill the stage and gave more feeling of a full scale production, rather than just two actors talking.
The first act was eighty minutes of slightly long winded plot setting. Act two was a very short thirty minutes where some action and plot did come to life, making the show worth sticking around for.
Staged in the Southwark Playhouse’s large performance space, the minimal set made the production feel cold and clinical. It felt too big for a production of this size and any chance of feeling a connection to the piece was lost.
Will Austin acts well as Clayton Boone, the gardener/model who reluctantly strips for James’s artistic pleasure. This is Will’s professional debut and is quite pleasing to the eye. Joey Phillips is also good as Kay, the student obsessed with Mr Whale’s films and who will do almost anything (and everything) to have his questions answered in an interview. Ian Gelder plays the infamous James Whale nicely, although at times it is hard to warm to his character. Although his schizophrenic moments are well performed.
God and Monsters is an interesting play with an almost thought provoking subject matter, however the performance has no real substance to it. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t very good either.
God and Monsters is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until the 7th March.