As a self-confessed Rocky Horror Picture Show fan, I was really looking forward to seeing the similar spoof style show, Return to the Forbidden Planet. A retelling of The Tempest, using Shakespearian dialogue, with a live 1950/60s rock-a-billy soundtrack, all set in a B-Movie, Sci-Fi adventure in Space. Sounds like a bit of a wild romp doesn’t it? Alas, it wasn’t to live up to my own excitement.
Rodney Ford is spot on perfection. With silver space suits, buttons that go ‘blip, blip, blip’, tractor beams, a giant squid monster and comic book style animations, it is a nerd’s dream. There are some cute gags that derive from the set and it very nearly becomes the star of the show.
However, a set is only as good as the story that takes place there and I’m afraid that this one just didn’t quite work. The Shakespearian dialogue is clever in theory and some laughs come from nifty puns (‘To beam, or not to beam…that is the question). But too often the actors try and use these phrases to create real emotion on stage, rather than revelling in the absurd nature of it all, meaning a lot of the humour is lost. As director, had Bob Carlton decided to give his cast free reign to cause havoc and over-play their roles, the spoof element of this show would have shone and the audience would have had a much better time. As it is, sections drag and it loses the humour.
But this is a talented cast. Playing instruments live on stage a la Dreamboats and Petticoats, the cast power through good old fashioned tunes such as ‘Teenager in Love’ and ‘Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire’. An equally talented ensemble there was one cast member who didn’t just steal the show, but became Kurt Cobain, Ronnie Wood and Marty McFly in one fell swoop. Mark Newham plays the weedy cook in love with an innocent tease who, once spurned, channels his angst into some outstanding guitar solos and spray of anger.
Perhaps it was my high expectations (but then considering the budget this show would of have I don’t think they’re unreasonable), but Return to the Forbidden Planet just didn’t have enough gravitational pull to make me engage with it. Fans of the original production and that era of music will no doubt be delighted, but audiences looking for a rollicking good time may find themselves lost in space.
Reviewed by Roz Carter
Return to the Forbidden Planet is playing at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 28 March 2015 and then on tour around the UK until May. Click here for more information and to book tickets.