He may have been best known for his 1930s films Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein but Dudley-born Hollywood director James Whale was also responsible for plenty of others.
These include Journey’s End and what many widely consider the definitive film version of Showboat – something he is at pains to point out in Gods And Monsters, an imagined retelling of Whale’s last days by playwright Russell Labey.
The play, now on at the Southwark Playhouse, shows Whale to be a somewhat lonely figure - indeed a shadow of his former successful self.
Now abandoned by the studios, he is left alone, haunted by the ghosts – and monsters – in his head and by a series of strokes which have left him feeling at times feeble and frustrated at his failing health.
That is until a new gardener, Clayton Boone, turns up at the house. Whale, an openly gay man, can’t resist him or trying to seduce him and employs every subtle trick in the book to do so – including persuading him to be a life model for his painting.
Boone, played admirably by Will Austin, is all muscle and although somewhat sceptical initially of posing for his painting, eventually becomes a friend and confidante to Whale.
The play successfully mixes the fact and the fiction and intertwines the past with the present beautifully.
Indeed it is a funny, dramatic, clever and absorbing piece of theatre, well staged and beautifully acted by the five-strong cast – particularly by Ian Gelder as Whale.
He brings sensitivity, longing, intelligence and plenty of emotion to Whale in what is an incredibly moving performance.
Gods And Monsters is on at Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway until Saturday, March 7. Tickets cost £18. Visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.