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Return To The Forbidden Planet - 25th Anniversary Tour - Birmingham Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
Event: -
Sci-fi, music and Shakespeare
It has been a quarter of a century since Return To The Forbidden Planet won the Olivier Award for best musical by translating Shakespeare's The Tempest into a rock'n'roll sci-fi drama.

Back on the road after a 14 year break, it's a nostalgic treat for avid fans of the show, but for others, it may come across as a little dated.

Return to the Forbidden Planet1
The music and singing still stands out in Return to the Forbidden Planet


Return To The Forbidden Planet is on a UK Tour that stops off in London, Manchester, Oxford, Glasgow and Birmingham, where I caught it at the New Alexandra Theatre during the week from January 26 to January 31.

The story revolves around a spaceship's crew that is pulled towards a planet where the strange scientist Dr Prospero lives with his robot Ariel and beautiful teenage daughter Miranda. Through flashback scenes on screen, we find out that Prospero was working on the mind-expanding drug "X Factor" when betrayed by his wife, who stole his secret work and set him and his baby daughter adrift in space.

It's all very tongue in cheek mixing the language of Shakespeare with modern phrases plus quotes from a range of the Bard's plays. But what stands out the most is the music and singing.

All the cast play many instruments and sing live to songs from Young Girl to Great Balls of Fire, Born To Be Wild and Who's Sorry Now? to name a few.

Return to the Forbidden Planet2
Ariel the robot is a lovable part of the musical


Mark Newnham, playing the ship's chef Cookie, has the stand out moment when he performs a guitar solo featuring riffs from some of the most famous rock anthems - from Hendrix to Blur.

However, the show was a bit slow to start and the action seemed a little stagnant for the first half an hour. Part of the problem is that what was seen as new and exciting in theatre 25 years ago has now been superceded with more hi-tech, slick special effects on stage.

Jukebox musicals are now ten a penny and work combining the language of Shakespeare in a modern day setting have also become commonplace.

Return to the Forbidden Planet3
Jonathan Markwood stars as Dr Prospero


There were a few updates to the original - most prominently that the Chorus is no longer played by sadly missed astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, who died in 2012.

Appearing on a screen in his place is now Queen rocker Brian May, whose dulcet tones sound poetic but are not quite as rasping as the larger than life personality of Sir Patrick.

There were also jokes updated for a new, younger audience, such as jokes about Primark. Some of the changes weren't necessarily welcomed though and it was a shame that Ariel the robot no longer appears on rollerskates.

Return to the Forbidden Planet4
The cast of Return of the Forbidden Planet in action


If you are a rock'n'roll fan then as a musical, this will appeal to you with its impressive live performances and cavalcade of older hits. However, as a musical as a whole, it's an average affair.

Rating: 6/10

Return To The Forbidden Planet - 25th Anniversary Tour

Book tickets on the UK Tour Website or the ATG Theatre ticket website.


BIRMINGHAM - NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE
26 - 31 Jan - 0844 871 3011

DARTFORD ORCHARD THEATRE
2 - 7 Feb - 01322 220000

GLASGOW KING'S THEATRE
9 - 14 Feb - 0844 871 7648

WYCOMBE SWAN THEATRE
16 - 21 Feb - 01494 512000

DARLINGTON CIVIC THEATRE
2 - 7 March - 01325 486555

EDINBURGH FESTIVAL THEATRE
10 - 14 March - 0131 529 6000

STOKE REGENT THEATRE
16 - 21 March - 0844 871 7649

WIMBLEDON - NEW WIMBLEDON THEATRE
23 - 28 March - 0844 871 7646

OXFORD NEW THEATRE
30 March 4 April - 0844 871 3020

LEICESTER CURVE
7 - 11 April - 0116 242 3595

PORTSMOUTH KINGS THEATRE
13 - 18 April - 023 9282 8282

CARDIFF NEW THEATRE
20 - 25 April - 029 2087 8889

BLACKPOOL GRAND THEATRE
27 April 2 May - 01253 743346

MANCHESTER PALACE THEATRE
4 - 9 May - 0844 871 3019
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Why? Rock'n'roll musical
When: Touring until May 9, 2015
Phone: Various - see UK tour list
Where: UK Tour - Birmingham, Manchester, London and more
Cost: Tickets from 12.90 - 33.40
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