Who would win a fight between Shakespeare, Captain James T. Kirk and Jerry Lee Lewis? The stakes are astronomical in Bob Carlton’s smash hit West End musical Return to the Forbidden Planet. The jukebox musical attempts to go where no show has gone before: deep into rock ‘n’ roll hyperspace... and beyond!
The mash-up of Shakespeare, sci-fi B-movies and rock ‘n’ roll works a treat.
Return to the Forbidden Planet is loosely based on the classic 50s sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, which itself is loosely based on The Tempest. Indeed, Charlton took Shakespeare’s most memorable lines, recrafted them into 'Fakespeare', mixed in catchy rock ‘n’ roll classics and delivered it against an intergalactic backdrop. It all makes perfect sense by the time the crew of the starship Albatross pounds through a meteor shower belting out Great Balls of Fire.
After surviving the meteors, the crew discover that their new Science Officer has abandoned ship. Landing on planet D'Illyria, aka the forbidden planet, they meet a snake oil peddling Doctor Prospero, his daughter Miranda and robot Ariel. A love triangle develops between Miranda, the ship's cook Cookie and Captain Tempest. Angered by his daughter's behaviour, Doctor Prospero takes his X Factor titled potion with unforeseeable consequences. Next the ship is attacked by a purple-tentacled monster. Amidst the mayhem, the missing Science Officer makes a comeback as Doctor Prospero's wife Gloria. Feeling dizzy yet?
The mash-up of Shakespeare, sci-fi B-movies and rock ‘n’ roll works a treat, but how does Brighton Little Theatre survive the collision with the hit musical? Thanks to the amazing set design, we were instantly transported (or beamed up) to Star Trek’s flight deck. The cast did not disappoint either. Rob Punter delivered an enigmatic Doctor Prospero while Leigh Ward as Captain Tempest resembled a lot more Daniel Craig than William Shatner – a relief.
Even though Captain Tempest did his best to convince that ‘it’s a man’s world’, it would have been nothing without the female crew. Lead by foxy Gloria (Mandy-Jane Jackson), coyly flirting Miranda (Claudia Fielding) and mannequinesque robot Ariel (Millie Edinburgh), and backed up by the cheerful Navigation Officers, the women stole the show. They had the looks, the voices and the Barbarella-style 60s female liberation attitude.
With a dedicated cast bursting into a song left and right to hits like Good Vibrations, Teenager in Love, The Young Ones, Born to be Wild and The Monster Mash, who could ask for more? With just a little more audience participation – singing, stomping, cheering, whooping – the show would have reached even the furthest corners of the universe.
However, sing-alongs being as popular as ever, Return to the Forbidden Planet will be with us for light years to come. I will join the crew in saying: live long and Prospero!