28th Feb2015

Gods and Monsters – Theatre

by timbaros

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 the Southwark Playhouse theatre.

The play, as well as the film, deals with the platonic relationship Whale has with his 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 when of he 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 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 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:


28th Feb2015

Superman – Theatre

by timbaros

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no – it’s Superman the Musical.

Playing until this weekend at the Leicester Square Theatre, Superman is not just a musical but it is also a comical look at the man we all know and love as the saviour of Gotham City, preventing disasters and capturing criminals.

Originally produced for the Broadway stage in 1966, and coming directly from Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre where it played last year, it’s transfer to the West End brings with it a set made up of cardboard props, and a cast who mostly struggle with the all encompassing singing, dancing and acting.

Craig Berry plays Superman. Sure, he’s got the look down – the black gelled-back hair and the chiselled chin, but Berry just doesn’t have much stage presence for playing such a larger than life character. Sure, the costume fits him, but that’s about it. Michelle LaFortune doesn’t fare much better. Her Lois Lane is bland. LaFortune can sing, but it doesn’t help when she forgets a line or two.

So what’s the plot you ask? We should know it as we’ve all seen those Superman movies. Lane is in love with Superman but not with Clark Kent, who works with her at the Daily Planet, and you see Clark Kent is actually Superman! Another man in the office – Max Mencken (a good Paul Harwood) – is the office lethario and vies for Lane’s affections, though he’s with Sydney (a good Sarah Kennedy), a clueless co-worker who’s looking for love in all the wrong places. However, when Mencken teams up with Dr. Abner Sedgwick (an excellent Matthew Ibbotson) to devise a plan to turn Superman into an ordinary mortal, one who would obey Dr. Sedgwick’s every command, things don’t look too good for Superman, and it is Lane who happens to fall in love with Dr. Sedgwick’s assistant Jim (Charlie Vose), and forgets all about Superman.

Superman plays like an amateur production (a high school production) with a few talented members of the cast (Harwood, Kennedy and especially Ibbotson), but it’s the ones who aren’t as talented that bring this show down. And the backup dancers do their darndest, all trying very hard to keep things moving (especially the adorable Christine Harris), but they just can’t save this production. Music by Charles Strouse with lyrics by Lee Adams help the show move along, but the end just doesn’t come soon enough.