Return to Forbidden Planet is the jewel in the crown of The Queen’s Theatre. Written by The Queen’s Theatre’s own Bob Carlton, Return to the Forbidden Planet has many influences, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest and the 1950s movie Forbidden Planet, indeed it was Carlton’s recognition of the film as a child that helped spark the idea for the 1983 musical.
This production marks the show’s 25th anniversary and is also the final show to be directed by the Queen’s Artistic Director Bob Carlton at The Queen’s Theatre.
The show has definitely been written with the viewers in mind, with constant interaction between audience and actors. As you walk into the auditorium, you are greeted by people dressed in silver uniforms with hairdryers for guns, some of them asking if you had flown with them before, while others did action scene style roles and one actress even showed off with a skipping rope. Throughout the show there are nods and winks towards the audience and at the end there is a concert style encore. The show includes classic rock songs that will leave you singing on the way home, these include ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire’
Most of the actors have been working with the theatre for a long time, are loyal members of the theatre’s professional resident company ‘Cut to the Chase…’ and have appeared in previous productions of Return to the Forbidden Planet. This includes Sean Needham who plays the head strong Captain Tempest and who we last saw as Saunders in Lend me a Tenor. Needham’s comic timing and amazing voice is central to the performance as he drives not only the spaceship but the story as well.
Mark Newnham returns as the squeaky voice cook and one of the largest jaw dropping moments is his heart stopping guitar solo. Jonathan Markwood plays Dr Prospero, the scientist whose sanity is questionable, and he is good at portraying the emotional turmoil experienced by the professor as well as preforming spoken word versions of famous songs.
Georgina Field graces us with her presence as Anne Droid, she does well at representing the teenage longing for love and I particularly liked her rendition of ‘Teenager in Love’
One of the main actors to note is Joseph Mann, who stepped in to play the part of Ariel the Robot after Fredrick Ruth hurt his leg during the second performance. Mann rescued the show by taking up the part, when cancelling the show was a real possibility, and the first time he played the role he had only 4 hours to rehearse and learn the lines. With this in mind his performance on the night was remarkable and both his comic timing and singing voice was amazing. This is made even more incredible by the fact that this is Mann’s debut performance at The Queen’s Theatre. We are all very grateful to Mann, who was previously playing Ewan Watami.
This was a very enjoyable evening and the cast certainly deserved both the standing ovations they received at the end of the show and encore. With the future of the theatre in question, due to funding cuts, I can see no better example of why you should not close The Queen’s Theatre than Return to the forbidden planet. Throughout you could feel the enjoyment of the audience and the laughs and feelings of excitement were abundant. We will certainly miss Bob Carlton and wish him well for the future.
Anne Droid – Georgina Field
Science Officer – Christine Holman
Phil McAvity – Callum Hughes
Navigation Officer / Musical Director – Greg Last
Arial – Joseph Mann
Dr Prospero – Jonathan Markwood
Chorus – Brian May
Captain Tempest – Sean Needham
Cookie – Mark Newnham
Miranda – Sarah Scowen
Bosun Arras – Steve Simmons
Creator and Director – Bob Carlton