Return To The Forbidden Planet Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 2 March 2015

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Return To The Forbidden Planet, the anniversary tour arrives at Darlington this week.  And what a celebration it is.

Billed as Shakespeare’s forgotten rock n roll masterpiece, RTTFP is based on The Tempest.  Now futuristically set on a spaceship under the command of Captain Tempest, played by pipe smoking Sean Needham.  The ship’s new Science Officer (Christine Holman), is a woman, causing an argument with Tempest about the importance of men and women. During their argument, the ship gets caught in a meteor shower. Captain Tempest insists on flying through the storm,but the Science Officer escapes the ship via shuttle craft. Drawn mysteriously to the planet D’Illyria the crew meet mad scientist Doctor Prospero (Jonathan Markwood), who has been marooned on the planet since his wife and science partner Gloria sent him and their daughter Miranda (Sarah Scowen) into space. Prospero offers to help repair the broken starship and he, his daughter, and their robot Ariel (Joseph Mann)come aboard. The ship’s cook, Cookie (Mark Newnham), falls in love with Miranda, but she has fallen in love with Captain Tempest, against her father wishes. During discussions about locating the missing Science Officer, Ariel reveals information about Doctor Prospero’s new formula ‘X Factor’, which can enhance the brain and mind. After an argument with his daughter Prospero takes the draught of ‘X Factor’. immediately, the ship is attacked by a tentacled space monster, but Ariel is in the airlock with the missing Science Officer. To save them both, Captain Tempest orders the airlock opened, which allows the monster to gain access to the ship. During the confusion of the attack it is revealed that the Science Officer is Doctor Prospero’s wife Gloria.

But ‘alls well that ends well’ and love’s labours are both lost and found in this incredible mishmash of Shakespeare, rock and roll and some psychedelic hippie-ness

The cast are incredibly talented, acting, singing and playing a myriad of different musical instruments whilst, at times, battling zero gravity.  In the midst of the spoken shakespearean prose and blank verse we are treated to cleverly linked songs and fabulous instrumentals.  Mark Newnhams epic guitar solo, linking The Zombies 1964 hit “She’s Not There” to Nirvana’s 1991 “Teen Spirit”was phenomenal . Worthy of narrator, Brian May’s, legendary guitar solo’s indeed.

It’s in a similar vein to Rocky Horror, not taking itself seriously and having great fun at the same time.  The audience have to play their part too, battling of ‘great balls of fire’ and protecting themselves from the reversal of the polarity of the neutron flow.  It plays  on every cheesy sci-fi cliche and draws on the classics of Star Trek, Dr Who and Phantom of the Opera. Don’t be put off by the Shakespeare, its very clever and a mismatch of some of the more famous quotes mismatched in between.  Its witty, clever and well written and a fitting tribute for its 25th year