Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Review: Gods and Monsters at the Southwark Playhouse

Gods and Monsters
Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Tuesday 10th February 2015

The most hauntingly dark and psychologically twisted play to open in London so far this year, Gods and Monsters leaves you with plenty to digest. We see Frankenstein director James Whale in his final weeks. Following a series of strokes, Whale finds himself fighting an inner battle; the play explores the strange obsession Whale forms with his gardener whilst flashing back to his earlier life throughout.

With the audience sat along three sides of the intimate performance space, there really is no escaping from Gods and Monsters. The play is directed by Russell Labey who adapted the piece from Christopher Bram's novel Father of Frankenstein (which also inspired the 1998 movie Gods and Monsters starring Ian McKellen).

Will Austin as Clayton Boone
Labey's direction is carefully focussed whilst Jason Denvir's commendable set design sweeps into the heights of the theatre, with projections used against the back wall.

Ian Gelder is exceptional as James Whale; when we first meet him Whale seems adventurous but stable; however, it doesn't take long for Gelder to expose the character's dark and twisted side.

Will Austin proves there is more to gardener Clayton Boone than a tough exterior. He feels uncomfortable upon learning of Whale's sexuality, yet still finds himself caring for the ageing director. Austin's performance contains moments of heart, he is certainly a name to remember. 

Something which always gets people talking is stage nudity; however, sometimes it gets people talking for all the wrong reasons. Gods and Monsters certainly features its fair share of nudity and whilst there are some horrifically powerful moments, perhaps less would be more. 

The flashbacks bring some moving scenes and beautiful transitions, but some flow more smoothly than others. The first act takes one or two dips whereas the second half could be described as gritty, profoundly thought provoking or, more simply, deeply disturbing. Gods and Monsters has the power to get under your skin, for some the experience will be unnerving; but it is also hugely compelling.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Gods and Monsters runs at the Southwark Playhouse until Saturday 7th March 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Annabel Vere

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