Gods and Monsters has such layers to it within literary and filmic traditions that a lengthy, telegraphed exposition is justifiable.
The monster is often confused with his maker. Take ‘Frankenstein’: the word has come to mean the creature, not the scientist. James Whale, the man who committed that tale most memorably to film in the ‘30s, was an early Hollywood legend. But in his desire for creative integrity – and the power inherent in ‘making’ – he campaigned not to be typecast as a ‘creature’ of the horror genre. But what demons this former prisoner of war from the Midlands was struggling with. And as an openly gay man, he had his obsessions and frustrations in love the same way he did in the studio.
Russell Labey came up with the treatment, and also directs. He takes his inspiration from Christopher Bram’s novel Father of Frankenstein, and the 1998 Ian McKellen film Gods and Monsters – both of which deal with Whale’s infirm latter days. Like Dr Frankenstein, Whale (Ian Gelder, of Game of Thrones fame) is fixated on juicy, muscly body bits – collecting them, controlling them. He falls for young men hopelessly, encouraging them to strip off and swim in his pool. He befriends his gardener (Will Austin), fancying him tragically for his monstrous physique. He draws Austin’s body in charcoal, and draws him in to his final suffering. Gods and Monsters has such layers to it within literary and filmic traditions that a lengthy, telegraphed exposition is justifiable.
Gods and Monsters is at the Southwark Playhouse until 7 March. Tickets: 0207 407 0234.