Bob Carlton's Return to the Forbidden Planet landed in the West End in 1989 by way of a 400 year old piece of Elizabethan theatre, a 1950s science fiction film and a tent. This cult show of Rocky Horror style proportions was conceived by Carlton after seeing the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, the plot of which is pilfered unashamedly from Shakespeare's The Tempest. The writer created an intergalactic rock 'n' roll musical with wide-ranging appeal that also, with its pic 'n' mix assortment of Shakespearean one liners, fulfilled Bubble Theatre Company's remit to bring classic theatre to people who would not normally attend. After much success touring the show in the big yellow tent that Bubble called a home, Return... found itself opening at the Cambridge Theatre in the West End and beat Miss Saigon to the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
Since then, word of mouth has continued to spread throughout this and other galaxies and the most recent touring production, directed by Carlton, looks set to follow the same ascendant trajectory. There are plenty of new touches to please and entertain existing fans and more than enough reasons for the next generation to clamber aboard. Time to dust off those space cadet suits and convert your hair dryer into a raygun methinks.
While Return... places quite heavy demands on the audience (you're encouraged to get vocal, dance and indulge in a little reverse polarity procedure), the talent have an even heavier workload. All are multi-talented multi-instrumentalists, who make reeling off a chunk of dialogue whilst beating out a drum solo prior to playing a heavy dose of fifties style rock guitar look easy - which, of course, it isn't.
American actor Robert McCormick has a lot of fun with the part of Captain Tempest; James Earl Adair, as Dr Prospero, makes for a very amusing mad scientist Teddy boy; Nicola Bolton (Gloria) displays her fine vocal talents while Middleton Mann manages to hand in a very funny performance on roller skates as robot Ariel. Mark Crossland (Cookie) rips the theatre apart with his 15 minute achy, breaky solo “She's Not There”, an impressive high decibel interlude that is guaranteed to force elderly audience members to remove the batteries from their hearing aids.
The B-Movie awfulness of Rodney Ford s set and Sally Lesser and Adrian Rees' costumes combined with a compilation of the best rock n roll classics the era had to offer (just try not to tap those feet) make Return to the Forbidden Planet an incredibly fun packed evening. Live long and Prospero indeed.
At Hull New Theatre 25-29 May
Aberdeen His Majesty's 1-5 June
Glasgow Kings Theatre 7-12 June
Brighton Theatre Royal 14-19 June
Bath Theatre Royal 21-26 June
Northampton Derngate 28 June-3 July
Coventry Belgrade Theatre 5-17 July
Sunderland Empire 20-25 September
Southend Cliffs Pavilion 27 Sept-2 October
Oxford Apollo 4-9 October
Bristol Hippodrome 11-16 October
Southampton Mayflower 18-23 October
Nottingham Theatre Royal 25-30 October
Edinburgh Festival Theatre 1-6 November
High Wycombe The Swan 8-13 November
Cardiff New Theatre 15-20 November
Birmingham Hippodrome 22-27 November
Leeds Grand Theatre 29 November-4 December