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Review: Return to the Forbidden Planet, at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Barnstorming production based on 1950s science-fiction film stars brilliant, multi-talented troupe

24 May, 2018 — By Michael Stewart

Gloria, Ariel and Tempest in Return to the Forbidden Planet. Photo: Darren Bell

BASED on the campy 50s science-fiction film The Forbidden Planet which in turn was the bastard offspring of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this new production of the late Bob Carlton’s jukebox musical boldly goes where it never went before, namely Upstairs at the Gatehouse, and takes it by storm… or tempest.

Both the film and the Bard’s play failed miserably to supply any good tunes but here in John Plews’ joyous, barnstorming production we are bombarded by an ecstatic meteor shower of 50s and 60s hits. Captain Tempest and his crew of the Starship Albatross are being belted by asteroids or “Great Balls of Fire” as his crew so poetically put it.

Mysteriously drawn to the aptly named planet D’Illyria (Shakespeare’s Illyria) they are met by its sole inhabitants: mad scientist Doctor Prospero and his nubile daughter Miranda (sweet-voiced Stephanie Hockley). She has never seen a young man before and she is soon erupting in Good Vibrations from the pipe-clenching Captain who fends her off with a blast of Young Girl.

Do the songs fit the action or inspire it? It doesn’t matter. Who needs a logical plot when you’ve got such a brilliant, multi-talented troupe as this one? Guitars, keyboards, drums, saxes and trumpets get twanged, thumped and blown and Edward Hole as Cookie equals (even surpasses) Mark Knopfler in his guitar solo.

Scene-stealer Simon Oskarsson as Ariel floats ethereally on skates (contrast the film’s obese Robbie the Robot). Alex Fobbester as Tempest has the purest and most powerful voice.

As for Shakespeare, he gets plundered wholesale and much of the dialogue is a mix-and-match cornucopia of Bardisms.

I could return again and again to this Forbidden Planet.

UNTIL JUNE 17
020 8340 3488

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