Theatre review by Julia Pattison: Monster Makers at John Cooper Studio, York

It was a real privilege to be able to watch this English premiere.
It was a real privilege to be able to watch this English premiere.

Musical: Monster Makers

Venue: John Cooper Studio, York

Dates: Until Saturday, October 26

Review by: Julia Pattison

With perfect timing just before Halloween, Pick Me Up Theatre’s latest production was an English premiere of Stephen Dolginoff’s new musical Monster Makers, featuring life behind the camera lens in the early days of horror movie making.

I love the intimacy of Monkgate’s wonderful little theatre, and always look forward to see how producer/set designer Robert Readman will magically transform the space with his usual flair.

This time, he’d made the most of limited stage space by using a small revolve which had Frankenstein’s lab on one side and Dracula’s coffin on the other. It all added to the hammed up horror atmosphere, along with alternating green and red lights, and regular thunder effects – just wonderful!

Add to that, a classy creative team, with Director Mark Hird and Musical Director Sam Johnson at the helm, and a charismatic cast who had us mesmerised as they took us through three Acts, Out For Blood, I’ve Created A Monster and The Final Nail In The Coffin (which told three stories of famous Monster Movies and showed the plagiarism and fierce competition behind the scenes).

It was a joy to be so close to the action, with the music melding seamlessly into the dialogue, and the cast demonstrating their superb singing skills and use of harmony, which sent shivers down the backbone.

Andrew Isherwood had a Whale of a time playing a camp movie maker, while Darren Lumby excelled at playing 1930s Hollywood Make-Up man Jack Pierce. He was marvellously manic, and showed brilliant comic timing and facial expressions when later on playing Dracula’s Stuntman. He definitely proved the rule that sometimes less is more, and held us all in the palm of his hand with his performance.

Tony Froud was an excellent choice for the mild mannered man behind the Monster, Boris Karloff, but came into his own when playing Peter Cushing, and looking uncannily like him too! Alan Park was wonderfully flamboyant as a smooth talking movie producer, as well as other roles he played, and Emma Louise Dickinson was a delight as a star-struck third rate actress, and wowed us all with her beautiful singing.

It was a real privilege to be able to watch this English premiere; I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this wonderfully wacky production. I’m sure like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, Monster Makers is going to grow and grow.