It’s easy to see why the Olivier Award winning Return to the Forbidden Planet has remained so popular this last quarter of a century.
A fusion of Sci-Fi comic strip, classic rock n roll and a dose of William Shakespeare for good measure, Return to the Forbidden Planet is simply a must-see for any purveyor of baby boomer pop culture. All the ingredients of a classic adventure are here, a journey into space, a crash-landing on an alien planet and a mad scientist as well as robots and aliens. Throw in a live soundtrack of songs popularised by The Animals, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and The Moody Blues and you have a night of great fun.
Queen’s Brian May appears on a big screen to narrate the proceedings but undoubtedly the stars of the show are the talented team of musician actors who make up the ships crew. Among the highlights are Sean Needham’s pipe smoking hero Captain Tempest, Sarah Scowen’s 50s style heroine Miranda, Jonathan Markwood’s Edwardian stylised eccentric Dr Prospero, Joseph Mann’s robotic Ariel and Christine Holman’s femme fatale Science Officer.
The real stand out however is Mark Newnham’s Cookie who gets to shine with a comic style akin to Jerry Lewis as well as deliver a fabulous guitar solo during his rendition of The Zombies She’s Not There.
Return To The Forbidden Planet also has several surreal moments usually professionally handled by the comic timing and musical professionalism of the ensemble cast. Closing the first half of the show to Them’s Gloria while the cast's space-ship is under attack from an alien's giant tentacles is undoubtedly a theatrical moment to savor. I’ll never listen to Gloria in quite the same way again!
Return to the Forbidden Planet continues at Cardiff's New Theatre until Saturday April 25, 2015.
- A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on April 23, 2015
- Return To The Forbidden Planet UK tour website
- Andy Howells Interview With Return To The Forbidden Planet's Mark Newnham