Return to the Forbidden Planet

Date 15th January 2016
Society Festival Players
Venue Comberton Sports and Arts Centre
Type of Production Musical
Director Warren Clark
Musical Director Joe Griffiths
Choreographer Kirsty Smith

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Author: Julie Petrucci

Return to the Forbidden Planet - Shakespeare’s “forgotten Rock ‘n’ Roll masterpiece” was an excellent choice for the Festival Players.  The show is well-written and packed with great 50's/60's rock 'n' roll music.  Loosely (very loosely) based on William Shakespeare's "The Tempest" it manages to bastardise plenty of the Bard's classic lines into real howlers like "two beeps or not two beeps? that is the question", "thou dost love this chick?" and "shall I compare thee to a Barbie Doll?” and “the ID has marched”

On entering the vast hull of The Albatross (which doubles during the day as the Comberton Sports and Arts Centre) we were welcomed aboard by some of the female members of the crew and taken through the safety procedures in case there was a need to reverse polarity and, as it turned out, it was a good job we knew that! That done we all willingly took a fun flight into an imaginary world. 

Although based on said Tempest the plot is amazingly simple. The audience members are passengers on a spacecraft. Liftoff is powered by the driving drumbeat of "Wipe Out." A mysterious power brings the space ship to an uncharted planet. Here we meet Dr Prospero, a mad scientist who was sent adrift into space by his wife, Gloria, who just happens to be the science officer on this space ship. There's also their daughter, Miranda, who promptly falls in love with the Captain. Cookie, the cook, also falls in love with Miranda and her distain for his affection leads to a betrayal. Plus Dr Prospero’s robot assistant Ariel. 

There was not a weak link in this cast and we were treated to many excellent performances including Simon Young (Captain Tempest) and Davinia Fisher who played the ‘Science Officer’ - subsequently revealed to be ‘Gloria’, the wife of Dr Prospero, who was well played by Rich Evans. Jonathan Padley as ‘Ariel’ the robot was excellent and Mark McCormack continues to impress giving an outstanding performance as ‘Cookie’.  The talented Danielle Padley, played ‘Miranda’, Prospero’s daughter and there was strong supporting performances from OIiver Fisher as The Bosun and Samantha Billing who confidently navigated the 'control panel’.  The vocal crew made up of Daisy Gill, Rachel Jarmy, Jenny Power and Fran Watson were also impressive.

There was little to criticise in this production. It is a tremendously challenging show to stage yet Sarah Phelps’ set design of the spaceship flight deck was amazing and looked pretty authentic even down to colourful control panels and the opening and closing of the Star Trek type door.  Special mention here for the technical crew and particularly John Martin for some great graphics up on the screen.  I thought the Albatross badge was brilliant.  There were one or two shadowy patches with the lighting but with the vastness of the hall and the width of the acting area, every bit of which was used, it was probably a mammoth task. I wasn’t too sure about the mishmash of the lower half of the crew’s uniforms - which were also less colourful than I expected them to be - I think I would have preferred matching trousers.

Musical Director Joe Griffiths and his small ‘band’ of six musicians were on the stage beneath the ‘bridge’  and they did a superb job.  Kirsty Smith’s choreography was based on the sixties style backing groups movement but it worked well and was handled skilfully. 

In order for a production of this show to succeed the cast must exude confidence and contain plenty of good singers and musicians.  The confidence and talents of the whole cast was unquestionable.  

Director, Warren Clark, drew together all the necessary ingredients to fulfil the criteria needed for this show to be a great success and it was.  It was a splendid evening and great fun