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I am Monsters! Theatre Review

Written by Simret Cheema-Innis

Audiences in London this Halloween season had an intimate window into the life of Nicholas Vince at his one-man stage show I am Monsters! With a career spanning over 35 years, as well as being the UK independent horror industry’s much-loved monster-icon and more, Vince interweaves humble beginnings, revealing a surprising and yet coincidental providence. From having an under-bite in his infancy, to critical surgery so severe that his face was almost peeled apart in all directions from his mouth, it was literally pre-destined that his pathway to the big picture (and hell) followed.

Vince’s show is a telling of his life characterising monsters; from expressing his love for the stage, a place where he feels most comfortable, to what it takes to be a monster
and his experiences working with Clive Barker. Colourful, and dreamy, with subtle technical direction, such as glowing red spotlights and existential but yet poetic moments, Vince magnetised his audience by reading inspired literature such as Dracula, and recounting historical periods in history that personally affected him and thus reflected in his life on screen.

But by playing a monster there is a particular responsibility for the actor breathing life and nuance into the character, a sometimes-dangerous affair when tapping into the darkness of the soul.

Take the Joker character with his many layers, a psychological slew where monster versus man, versus monster again. There’s a disturbing dichotomy, to the extent it’s said to have resulted in the demise of Heath Ledger. Some actors have even claimed that they’ve found it difficult to break out of a role after playing challenging characters, resulting in semi-identity crises. Vince was able to share his experiences in the more physical realm.

“The time where it became really blurred was when I played the Chatterer, because if you’ve heard of the term sensory deprivation, I literally couldn’t see. Sets are quite dark places and there were two days where they left me in make up for eight hours and didn’t film me. On the third day, Ashley [Laurence] smashed me around the face with a box, so I think that was an incredibly physical performance”, says Vince

There’s a certain finesse to playing dark fearsome characters filled with torment, one that isn’t just reliant on the scary appearance, it can also be down to how relatable the backstory is.

“In the particular case of Kinski, it’s finding the humanity in the monster, Kinski is a wannabe bad guy and I think there’s a lot more to him and you see him change throughout the movie”, Vince continues “I think it’s always in the script, and with Clive he wrote a book called Nightbreed Chronicles where he wrote a biography for each of the monsters. He wrote that during filming, he never discussed it with me. The story of Kinski, had nothing to do with what I was trying to portray on screen, because he hadn’t actually written it when I had done that.

You have to find something in your own life that relates. From so high I’ve been fascinated by monsters”.

Needless to say, even if dressed up, covered in masses of prosthetic make-up and costume, baking inside the mask which perhaps feels like it’s melted your own flesh to bare bones hours later, there is a talent to playing a monster. And, in this case Vince has the answer.

“They should be scary, if you’re thinking about film, TV or theatre, a good monster has to be scary. I really like them when they’re mysterious and you have to be careful about revealing why they are. As an actor you have to know, but the ones who really have power are the ones that have got a mystery about them and you don’t know their entire backstory.
If you can explain why they’ve done what they’ve done, yes it’s important you understand that they’re human, and that’s what my show is about, but in terms of an audience, it’s like a magic trick, you never pull back the curtain. The enjoyment of a monster for me is if I don’t know what’s behind the curtain”.

But the debate of whether the audience should really know everything about the monster continues. Take the mixed fan views of Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, where the Cenobites’ human form is revealed. We get to see them in their child-like vulnerable state, the mirror has been broken, the curtain drops and we see the Wizard in the balloon. The fear is sucked away like the eye of the storm extracting all in its path into a catastrophic blending funnel. Vince has spoken about his experience before on this, however kindly elaborated on the Cenobite reveal in Hellbound

“My initial reaction was: what do you mean I don’t get to be seen out of make-up? But I thought, oh my god, there’s a kid who has grown up in hell, now that’s interesting. I wrote my own version of how the Chatterer ended up in hell as a child or somebody who looked like a child. What I like about Hellbound is that you don’t know the back story of the child – how the hell did a child end up in hell and grow up in hell, now that’s intriguing”.

I am Monsters! not only provides horror fandom with trivia for the movie favourites that Vince has starred in, but it’s also a personal dedication and sharing of a world which lovers of horror can relate to and feel at home with. The audience sat proud, intrigued in ritualistically companionate as the horror community gathered to support yet another contributor whose life also surrounds the world of horror.

So…what is the formula of a good monster?

“Fear Makes Monsters”, says Nicholas Vince.

Bravo Nicholas Vince.


Show: Fourstars Cover

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About The Author
Simret Cheema-Innis
Staff Reviewer - UK
Simret, also known as Wickergirl, is a blogger/film maker from London. Her salubrious taste for horror started at the tender age of 8 years old, dressing her siblings up as goblins and vampires and devising dream worlds during playtime.
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