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Return To The Forbidden Planet

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Theatre Royal Brighton, New Road, Brighton, BN1 1SD. Box Office: (01273) 328488.

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      24.12.2001 01:53
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      I am lucky enough to live in a place which can boast its own theatre: The Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, Essex. Each month, the talented resident group of actor/musicians put on a new production, and due to the new “Jump the Queue” system, my husband and I secure tickets to see each show. Back in August, we had the great experience of seeing the Queen’s production of Bob Charlton’s Return to the Forbidden Planet. In fact, I went twice in the space of two weeks, once on opening night, and once to a signed performance, where a communicator, dressed as one of the “crew” stood at one side of the stage, signing for the deaf. This was of special interest to me, as I am currently learning BSL (British Sign Language). But I digress. Return to the Forbidden Planet is a musical, loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the old science fiction film, The Forbidden Planet. The music is taken from the 50’s and 60’s, and includes such numbers as Great Balls of Fire, Young Girl, Please Don’t Let me be Misunderstood, Teenager in Love, and many more instantly recognisable tunes from that era. The action takes place aboard the Spaceship, The Albatross. Captain Tempest and his crew are drawn in to an unknown planet, where many years before, a scientist had been marooned along with his daughter, Miranda. Unbeknown to Captain Tempest, who is magnificently portrayed as a somewhat simple character, his new science officer, Gloria, is the estranged wife of said Scientist, and was responsible for leaving him on the planet, due to his strange work on mind expansion. Both Captain Tempest and the young cook, Cookie, fall in love with the beautiful Miranda, and thus the stage is set for a wonderful conflict! Running through the play is the Robot, Ariel, wonderfully portrayed in silver suit, and on roller skates. The casting here is superb. How the actor manages to perform as he doe
      s is beyond me. The stage is not very big, and roller skates are not the easiest things to control! However, Ariel (based on the original Robbie the Robot from the film, and Ariel, the spirit in The Tempest) has to be one of the best character parts I have seen….and to see him on the drums as well is an added bonus! In fact, the whole cast is multitalented, swapping instruments with ease, going from guitar to saxophone to drums, all the time manipulating microphones. This must have taken hours of practice to perfect. The result is a slick, professional performance, with many very humorous anecdotes. The script is written in the style of Shakespeare. Anyone who has ever studied any of the great Bard’s works will instantly recognise such lines as “Two beeps, or not two beeps”, “Is this a monster that I see before me?”, and the piece de la resistance, “Beware the Ids that march”. Sayings such as these are scattered right through the play, and much of the fun comes from trying to match them with the originals. The production also makes use of a video screen in places, and Patrick Moore, star of The Sky at Night, has been utilised on this as a kind of narrator, summarising what has happened so far, and drawing everything to a conclusion. Live videoing is also used in a couple of places, notably when Cookie is singing, “She’s not there”. I have never before seen a guitar played so skilfully in so many ways. Normally, behind his back, over his head, with his teeth, with a microphone stand: you name it, he could play it. Superbly. The audience too, is not left out. When the Spacecraft is damaged during a meteor attack (Great Balls of Fire!) the audience must participate in the manoeuvre to reverse the polarity on the Klystron Generator! And woe betide anyone who sits there without helping! We must look so silly pressing our hands up and down above our heads, but it a
      ll adds to the atmosphere of this wonderful show. Towards the end, when the scientist realises that it is his own self (or Id) that is creating monsters which threaten to destroy the ship, he leaves the rest of the crew and goes to fight his own monster: a fight which he inevitably loses. Once he is no longer around, the planet begins to break up, the ship escapes, Captain Tempest gets his Miranda, Cookie gets the cake in his face, the Robot dances rock and roll, and Patrick Moore announces in the style of the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that we have reached the end of the journey. Or have we? The whole cast rip through yet more songs, accompanied by a huge ball which is flung around in the audience, as everyone gets to their feet to boogie in the aisles! Great Balls of Fire, The Monster Mash and others round off perfectly what is without doubt a splendid night out. I was, as stated at the beginning, lucky, indeed, privileged, to be at the opening night at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch. The cast have since taken the production on tour, to Brighton, Poole and Bournemouth in Dorset, theatres in Kent, and are currently (22.12.01) performing at the Savoy Theatre in the Strand. I aim to be there on closing night too, on 19th January 2002. Hornchurch is very rightly proud of our resident group of actors. If you get the chance, I would fully recommend a visit to the Savoy to witness their talents for yourself. For Friday matinees, all seats are half price (£6.50 - £17.50), and children are half price at all performances. You won’t see a better show anywhere in the West End, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s Simply the Best! Update 4/1/02 How ironic! The date I received a crown for this op was the date I was making yet another visit to this superb musical. It gets better the longer it goes on. Tonight I once again went to the Savoy Theatre in London and have h
      ad a thoroughly rip-roaring time! The artists go from strength to strength. I almost had tears running down my face as Gloria said goodbye (Moody Blues style) to her ex-husband, Dr. Prospero, knowing that his ID was about to destroy him! And Cookie's voice! Magnificent. I am so glad I've already booked to go to the final performance on 19th January. There are still tickets available for some performances. You can find out which ones, and the prices, and book on-line at www.ticketmaster.co.uk. If you are able to go, I fully recommend it. There are only 2 more weeks left before this extraordinary musical finishes it's tour,and as far as I am aware there are no immediate plans to take it on tour anywhere else. Don't delay. Book it NOW

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