Re-review: Return to the Forbidden Planet, Palace Theatre Manchester

“Live long and prosper-o”

There’s no doubting that I do get spoiled around my birthday and so part of a weekend trip home saw eight of us head over to the Palace Theatre in Manchester to see Return to the Forbidden Planet, on a night which saw the end of their tour. I’ve already seen this production (review here) but the show is just one of those evergreen delights for me that I could just watch over and over, even if it isn’t the most perfect piece of theatre (that first half remains too long).

It was entertaining to catch their final show of this run too, there’s always a special air to these performances and you could definitely see the cast having fun, both with us and each other – we were made to reverse polarity for perhaps a little longer than was strictly necessary and it was nice to see all the ensemble members get their chance to shine in the extended finale. I don’t know what the future will hold for the Forbidden Planet, its retro charms remain perhaps rather niche, but you can rest assured that should it pop up again on tour, I’ll be there – hands above my head – reversing polarity.

Review: Return to the Forbidden Planet, New Wimbledon Theatre

“Two beeps or not two beeps”

Early 2015 is turning out to be something of a nostalgia-fest for me as following the Royal Exchange’s superb revival of Little Shop of Horrors is another of the first shows that I came to love as a child – Return to the Forbidden Planet. I can’t recall exactly how many time my sisters, Aunty Jean and I must have seen this show but every time its tour came near us we were there, reversing polarity and loving it every time. Consequently, I have huge affection for the show, even though it is many years since I last saw it, and so naturally the notion of a 25th anniversary tour was one I could not resist as it came into my orbit at the New Wimbledon.

For those without such prior knowledge, Return to the Forbidden Planet is a schlocky sci-fi B-movie version of The Tempest, complete with a rock’n’roll jukebox soundtrack. Not only that, there’s video narration by Brian May. cod-Shakespearean dialogue and any number of quotations lifted from other plays by the Bard and repurposed to intergalactic effect. So a routine space mission led by Captain Tempest gets diverted to a mysterious rock called D’Illyria (“what planet, friends, is this…”) after getting caught in a meteor storm (“goodness, gracious, great balls of fire…”) where they meet the mad Doctor Prospero, his robot servant Ariel and his innocent daughter Miranda. Continue reading “Review: Return to the Forbidden Planet, New Wimbledon Theatre”

Looking ahead to 2015

I realise I’m just adding (belatedly) to the plethora of 2015 features already published but so many of them trod the boringly familiar ground of forthcoming West End shows (and in the Evening Standard’s case, managed to recommend booking for three shows already sold out from their list of six). So I’ve cast my net a little wider and chosen a few random categories for just some of the shows I’m recommending and looking forward to in 2015.

Continue reading “Looking ahead to 2015”

Review: The Witches of Eastwick, Watermill Theatre

“If I said that I would listen, might that ease the doubt?”

A theatre I hadn’t been to before and a musical I hadn’t heard before – the offer to go and see the Watermill’s adaptation of the 2000 West End show The Witches of Eastwick seemed like a no-brainer. But though I am glad to be able to tick both of those boxes, I have to admit to being rather disappointed with the show and such disillusionment is only magnified when one has made a not inconsiderable effort to go out of town to see a show. As with many of the productions at this venue, it is an actor-musician led revival, directed here by Craig Revel-Horwood and so one is habitually left in awe at the amount of talent being displayed on this cramped stage, I’m just not convinced that this musical is worth it.

Written by John Dempsey and Dana P Rowe from John Updike’s novel of the same name, the story focuses on three New England women unhappy with their lot in life who get swept up into the influence of newcomer Darryl Van Horne, whose demonically charming ways transform all their lives as he seduces them one by one. But though it may be better the devil you know, the changes he wreaks threaten to go too far and it proves no easy task to put this particular genie back into the bottle. Tom Rogers’ set design works wonders in such an intimate space, not least with a well-executed flying scene, too many aspects of the production felt problematic to me.  Continue reading “Review: The Witches of Eastwick, Watermill Theatre”