Theatre Review: Monster Makers

25th October 2019

Monster Makers

Matthew Kitchen Photography

MONSTER MAKERS by Stephen Dolginoff

A Pick Me Up Theatre production at John Cooper Studio 41 Monkgate 23-26 October Review by Ian Giles

The British premiere of Dolginoff’s new musical has been a long time coming, but boy it has been well worth the wait. Billed as ‘A Triple Feature,’ the play is true to its publicity as it explores in chronological sequence three exponents of its title: F W Murnau, the German director of the silent masterpiece Nosferatu (1921); Jack Pierce, the long forgotten Hollywood make-up man who created the creature in Frankenstein (1931); and Peter Cushing, variously Dr Frankenstein and Van Helsing, in the British Hammer Horror films of the 50s and 60s.

Each section has a different emphasis. The first focuses hilariously on the efforts of Murnau (Andrew Isherwood) and his producer (Alan Park) to escape the accusation of plagiarism in a lawsuit brought by Florence Stoker (Emma Louise Dickinson), the widow of Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula. It is no spoiler to state that they failed, the company went bust and Murnau decamped to Hollywood.

Matthew Kitchen Photography

Matthew Kitchen Photography

The second section takes us to Hollywood, where Jack Pierce (Darren Lumby)’s vaulting ambition and his battle with the film’s director, Brit James Whale (Isherwood again) constitutes the main action while the third jumps forward to the early nineteen-seventies where Peter Cushing (Tony Froud) is hopelessly trying to shoot two films at once in Hammer Horror’s imaginary death throes. Comedy is never far from the surface and when it emerges it is expertly played by a versatile company (more of whom anon).

Matthew Kitchen Photography

Matthew Kitchen Photography

Each of the main characters has a keynote song, sung with aplomb, and musical director Sam Johnson’s invisible but very evident contribution on keyboards to the success of the show should not be underestimated. Above all, Mark Hird directs the whole with a firm and imaginative guiding hand.

When all is said and done, this is an actors’ show and they are superb. Each plays three sharply differentiated roles with great success. This is a challenge at the best of times but when the parts are similar (for example Froud plays three actors, Isherwood three directors and Park three producers) it is even harder. I am pleased to report it is all carried off with great skill and last night’s first performance was received ecstatically by a packed house. So well done Emma Louise Dickinson, Tony Froud, Andrew Isherwood, Darren Lumby and Alan Park: you made me think there were more of you. This lively little show has all the makings of a cult classic and its first run is only until Saturday. You have been warned: buy your tickets now!

Monster Makers is at John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate on Friday 25 October 2019 at 19:30 & Saturday 26 October 2019 at 14:30 and 19:30. Book below.

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