Return to the Forbidden Planet is loosely based on 1956 film Forbidden Planet and so somewhat known for being connected to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Its book, though, uses many of Shakespeare’s lines from numerous plays and great fun can be had by a Shakespeare buff spotting all the steals. The story itself is one of betrayal and heroism in space, with some psychological depth and a lot of feet-stompingly good rock’n’roll songs, including ‘Great Balls of Fire‘, ‘Good Vibrations‘, ‘Shake Rattle and Roll‘ and ‘Monster Mash‘.
On entering the venue you are greeted by flight attendants, welcomed to your space flight and the show is set up well – there is a clear consul podium on a raised dais deck upon a stage with a backdrop logo for this Intergalactic Starship Albatross. Costumes are colourful and pertinent, and energy is high, with apt sound effects just waiting to help set the scenes. You are led through space procedures, preparing some minor audience participation, and the production takes off.
Despite starting gaffs and missed cues, including one character having to leave the stage in order to fetch another, and the overall difficulties of young performers dealing with a demanding Olivier award-winning hit, the commitment of cast and crew is very clear and creates an entertaining production. Energy is strong and while each principal player actually varied in their own consistency of performance quality when singing, the production still shone.
Prospero stood out for both singing and acting, showing talent in expression, physicality and voice, and Gloria, an intriguing character who keeps you guessing about her allegiances, managed a very moving rendition of ‘Go Now‘, though her words were not always clear at other times. Overall, there were some mike problems – shared handhelds passed among the cast – voices would often raise beyond what was intelligible when in panic mode or be overwhelmed by sounds and music, and not all the acting was genuine rather than hollowly demonstrative. Characters were very clear, though, and all managed to impress at some point, with a strong support cast and decent comedy and movement skills. Above all, there was a feeling of enjoyment that became infectious, once the cast had gained its stride.
This Simply Theatre Academy’s production cuts a few popular songs and does have its problems, as mentioned, but the story is clear and told with humour and energy and the considerable quality of the musical itself is served well enough in this version to provide fine feet-tapping, hand-clapping entertainment.
15 – 19 August, 13:05 (14:20) @ C Venues – C eca