Many Happy Returns

cast of forbidden planet

Return to the Forbidden Planet

The New Alexandra Theatre


IT IS easy to imagine how the original Return to the Forbidden Planet production must have been when it first took to the stage back in the 80s.

The writer and director Bob Carlton took the premise of the film Forbidden Planet, which was loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, fuelled iprosperot with a load of popular songs and dialled in a whole lot more of Shakespeare’s orginal  text.

From its small beginnings the production went on to run in the West End for four years, picking up a series of coveted awards and the praise of audiences and critics across the world.

With this 2015, 25th Anniversary tour, directed by Carlton himself, you get to withness why it has been such a success as the production creates its own unique gravity field from the very first moment.

Jonathan Markwood as Prospero. Pictures: Nobby Clark

At first you might dismiss the tongue in cheek beginnings on what appears to be a Blue Peter made set, but gradually and by the end, you cannot help being pulled into the core of the production and on to your feet.

This is achieved mainly by the sheer brilliance of each of the multi-talented cast and the precision of their interaction with so many elements of the technical staging

The casting for the show must have been a nightmare. You may be able to find those that can, sing, or act, or play several instruments to a professional standard, or professionally work a stage in complex touring production, or the ability to deliver Shakespeare with any confidence or just be good with any degree of comic timing.

However to find people that can do it all at the same time, as this cast can, is the key to what impresses you most about this show. 

Instruments are continually being swapped over from cast members, hand held mics being moved or delivered to each cast member and never missing a cue. All this is happens while delivArielering the musical score live and telling the story of an intergalactic flight doomed to fight giant monsters created by the scientist Prospero.

Amongst the retro mayhem Jonathan Markwood as Prospero injects the full weight of an RSC production with his great voice and statesman like performance.

The interplay between Prosepro, his former wife, the spaceship’s science officer played Christine Holman, together with her sax, and their young teen daughter Miranda Sarah Scowen, who only manages to play Trumpet, Percussion and sing, conjure some of the best Shakespearean moments.

At the top of the multi talent list is Mark Newnham who plays Cookie a character who begins seemingly in a support role vying Miranda’s love.

Hot stuff from Joseph Mann as the Robot Ariel,

Over the course of the show though and literally through his musicianship and a series of blistering rock guitar solos and great voice he moves more into a central role.

Ably matched is Steve Simmonds as Bosun on Bass Electric Guitar. Drums and trumpet, effortlessly flowing between each whilst delivering his lines.

Sean Needham as the Captain also has similar multi-tasking abilities and even Joseph Mann as the Robot Ariel, trapped in his suit for the entire show, managed to pick up a guitar and rock out with the crew in the finale.

Return to Forbidden may not be the best musical ever written but it wears you down into thinking it is by the sheer talent of the combined cast. To 31-01-15

Jeff Grant



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