Return to the Forbidden Planet at New Wimbledon
Inspired by a science fiction B movie, Return to the Forbidden Planet is back with its 25th anniversary Tour. The show is a bizarre mélange of Shakespeare’s The Tempest set on a 1950s spaceship, bursting with rock ‘n’ roll favourites. It has won the Olivier Award for Best Musical and is a crowd-pleaser from beginning to end.
Audience participation is encouraged right from the start. There’s no lolling in the dressing room for this cast. The crew wanders around the auditorium in character and costume, ensuring that theatregoers are “ready for their flight”.
Although much of the dialogue is instantly recognisable from The Tempest, Ariel is a representation never before seen. Played by Joseph Mann, he looks like The Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man, but with the servile pleasantness of Red Dwarf’s Kryten. It’s an odd mix, and a warm one. Ariel is a compelling pleasure to watch every time he takes the stage. Dr Prospero (Jonathon Markwood) is another highly alternative portrayal of a well-known Shakespeare stalwart. His extraordinary version of Elvis Presley’s All Shook Up is worth the ticket price alone.
From the first to the last, every song is done well, though at times updated and altered to fit the strange world that the show inhabits. There are surprising, yet welcome, song choices in addition to the 50s rock ‘n’ roll hits the show promises. All the Nirvana fans in the audience become immediately obvious when Cookie’s (Mark Newnham) extended guitar solo includes Come As You Are, as heads are unable to prevent their compulsive nodding.
Unusually, the set remains unchanged throughout both halves, as the whole show is set on the deck of the starship, though the audience is still treated to some spectacularly entertaining costumes and special effects. The space monster is simply represented by a wonderful animation outside of the spaceship, until its mighty, dangling tentacles invade the vessel, molesting several of those onboard to great comedic effect.
The audience stand well before requested in order to provide not simply a standing ovation, but a dancing one. Do go in a group, do dress up and absolutely do have an unavoidably great time. Return to the Forbidden Planet has succeeded in finding a fine cast of actors and musicians with a level of energy so high that it’s impossible not to share in their fun.
Return to the Forbidden Planet is on at New Wimbledon Theatre until 28th March 2015, for further information or to book visit here.