Return to the Forbidden Planet

Return to the Forbidden Planet, a jukebox musical by playwright Bob Carlton, debuted in 1983 and has amassed a cult following.  Written in the 80’s and based in the 1950’s the show returns this spring for a 25th anniversary tour and it’s bigger and better than ever.

Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”  and featuring well known lines taken from a number of famous Shakespearean plays including Romeo and Juliet, Return to the Forbidden Planet is a mix of old and new references which gives a relatable twist to a classic tale (there was even a sneaky mention of Primark).    Fear not theatre watchers, to think that this show would lose its appeal to a wider audience would be foolish.

The show follows Captain Tempest (Sean Needham) and the crew of Interplanetary Space Flight 9 who, whilst on board a routine flight, crash-land onto a strange and forbidden planet and meet eccentric scientist Dr Prospero (Jonathan Markwood) and his beautiful daughter  Miranda (Sarah Scowen). We learn that Dr Prospero and Miranda were sent to the planet many years before by Prospero’s wife Gloria.  But why would Prospero’s wife banish her husband and only child into outer space?  Could it be out of jealously of his latest scientific discovery or could there be more than meets the eye?

Cookie (Mark Newnham) provides comedic highlights as the lovelorn cook on board the ship who is trying to win the affections of Dr Prospero’s daughter Miranda.  Unfortunately, Miranda appears to have fallen for Captain Tempest and rebuffs Cookies advances.  Cookies broken heart and bruised ego provides the perfect platform for a teenage angst rendition of “She’s Not There” followed by a mesmerising musical mash up.  By teaming up with the ships Science Officer, Gloria (who also transpires to be Prospero’s wife) he decides to try and overturn his captain and win the love of Miranda, to disastrous affects.

Your evening at the theatre begins with being welcomed aboard Return to the Forbidden Planet begins with the cast of the show mingling with the audience in full character as the audience take their seats for the show.  The high energy show takes place onboard Space Flight 9 and it’s sci-fi setting consisting of space suits, technology and flashing lights a plenty, a robot, alien tentacles and instruments concealed by ships interior.  The show integrates both video and the use of 27 well known rock and roll hits from the 50’s and 60’s to narrate the story. Video narrative is provided by rock legend Brian May in a pre-recorded video at intervals throughout where he recaps and foretells the events which unfold throughout the show.

To  some extent the show reminds me of the Baz Luhrmann adaptation of Romeo & Juliet featuring timeless hearthrob Leo Dicaprio (only set onboard a space ship and punctuated with a back catalogue of rock and roll music).  The lingo may be a little difficult to follow in parts but the theme of love and betrayal will resonate with an audience of young and old and the addition of some of the most well known rock classics of the 50’s and 60’s  only adds to its whacky charm.

By the end of the evening the enthusiasm of the cast was inescapable and the audience were on their feet, clapping and singing along to a selection of hits.

Return to the Forbidden Planet is a gem of a show which gives a refreshing spin on the works of Shakespeare and songs we all know and love.  Well worth a watch.

The show will run until the 21st March and tickets are available to buy online or at the box office

  • I’m so glad I read this post! I worked with Jonathan on Noises Off, and I completely forgot he was in this! I worked with Mark (briefly!) too, and I din’t know he was in it! They’re both such nice people, and very talented! It sounds a fantastic show.