Return to the Forbidden Planet Festival Theatre

It’s pretty impressive that this is the 25th Anniversary Tour for Return to the Forbidden Planet, but I’m afraid there was not a great deal more to be impressed about in this production.

For those of you who have passed these years in blissful ignorance of this show, it has its roots in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, filtered through cult ‘60s sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet, although it probably more closely resembles the Muppets’ Pigs in Space set to a soundtrack of classic songs from the fifties and sixties.

There are a number of problems here – it just isn’t funny enough, camp enough or sexy enough to come out looking like a full scale theatre production; from the set to the “special effects” it has the vibe of a student production at the Fringe that was working on a very limited budget.

And unlike, say, the Rocky Horror Show, it has no music to call its own. Yes, there is a wealth of great pop tunes to stir the memory, but as performed here, some are treated well, some are adequate, and some are brutally murdered.

There is a problem with the Shakespearian dialog, too, delivery not always being convincing. But I suppose that when you’re recruiting a cast who have to sing, act and play several instruments each, a background in the Bard is not the first thing you look for.

And whatever criticisms I might make, I have to give the cast full marks for effort, they all put everything into it to entertain the audience. None more so than Mark Newnham as Cookie, whose blistering guitar solo won him the man of the match award, although Grant Stott nearly pinched that with his all-too-brief cameo appearance.

Having said all that, I must also say that a great many of the audience (although it was far from a full house) were obviously enjoying themselves, singing along at times and, of course, participating in the Reverse Polarity Drill.

And that, after all, is what it’s all about.

Jim Welsh