Writer: Bob Carlton
Director: Bob Carlton
Reviewer: Malcolm Wallace
Celebrating its 25th anniversary,Return to the Forbidden Planethas landed in Manchester with aplomb on the final leg of its current UK tour.Loosely based on the 1956 science fiction filmForbidden Planet, which itself was loosely based on Shakespeare’sThe Tempest,original creator and director of this production, Bob Carlton created the show back in the mid-eighties and in 1989 it beatMiss Saigonto the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
A jukebox musical, but superior than most of the more recent jukebox shows to grace the stage, this show features a feast of 50s and 60s rock ‘n’ roll classics performed by a multi-talented cast of actor/musicians.The story centres on a spaceship drawn in to a mysterious planet by mad scientist Dr Prospero (Jonathan Markwood) and as plots go it is paper thin, but the true merits of this show lie in other areas.Carlton’s nifty script seamlessly intersperses generous portions of Shakespearean dialogue with modern language and his direction ensures that the pace never falters for a second.
In regards to costume and set, designer Rodney Ford has aimed for simplicity in order to accentuate the talents of the cast. The static space ship set on several levels works extremely well as a performance space and is exceptionally well lit by lighting designer Mark Dymock.Sound designer Ben Harrison ensures that, for the most part, the slightly over-amplified music does not drown out the singers though there is the odd moment where lyrics are lost for this reason.
The greatest asset this production can boast is the eleven strong cast who work their socks off throughout and appear to having a thoroughly good time doing so in the process.It’s difficult to single anyone out when faced such an abundance of talent but credit must be given to Mark Newnham as Cookie, the ships cook, whose act 1 guitar solo has to be seen and heard to be believed.Also impressive is Joseph Mann as Ariel the Robot and Sarah Scowen who, as Miranda, really comes into her own towards the end with her rendition ofMr Spaceman.
All in all this is a fabulously fun production that had the opening night audience in Manchester on their feet and dancing in the aisles and although the storyline would only garner the show a reasonable 3 stars, the production quality and brilliant cast ensure this show achieves a well-deserved 4 stars.
Runs untilSaturday9thMay 2015 | Photo Nobby Clark