Return to the Forbidden Planet
cut to the chase...
Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch
Wednesday 29th August 2012
Greeted by members of the intergalactic crew as we enter the auditorium, the audience are then taken through the emergency polarity reversal drill (actions essential). The silliness begins, and never lifts throughout in a fun-packed, fast-paced show.
Full of familiar, toe-tapping rock 'n' roll hits and ingenious Shakespearian word-play, this is a wonderful showcase for the multi-talented cut to the chase... actor-musicians. A cast of 8 (plus a special recorded cameo) played at least a dozen different instruments between them - two drum kits, guitars, keyboards, saxophones, trumpets, trombones, even the spoons - all expertly handled live on stage. Of course they all sing too, and despite my constant enjoyment of the array of instruments, a particular highlight was the beautiful acappella Teenager in Love, led by Natasha Moore as Miranda accompanied by the rest of the cast, as well as the exhaustingly impressive She's Not There electric guitar solo by Mark Newnham as Cookie, in an impressive professional debut. All of the performances were excellent, but Ariel the robot, played by Fredrick "Frido" Ruth in a wonderfully tacky silver costume, stands out if only for his remarkable ability to successfully navigate the multiple steps on stage in his roller skates.
Being styled on 1950s B-movies, the Queen's Theatre set and costume departments have outdone themselves with their spectacularly tacky designs. The set is covered with silver paint, flashing lights, smoke machines, and a projected backdrop, producing an overall effect worthy of Doctor Who and eliciting grins of delight from the audience as soon as they walked into the auditorium. Costumes are simple but effective 1950s stereotypes, with the doctor in a long white coat and bow tie, the captain in a navy blue suit and peaked hat - a piece Sean Needham inventively maneuvered while limboing in and out of his guitar straps.
I couldn't help but wonder at the decision to use handheld microphones throughout. It certainly adds an extra complexity for the already juggling performers, and for me even distracted from the action in places. The actors coped really well (a line lost at one point into a pipe prop in the actor's one hand instead of the mic in his other...), and there is of course a seperate issue of sound quality and the need to be able to mic all the various instruments, but surely a headset each for the dialogue as well as the handhelds would make for a smoother staging of an already frantic piece of theatre.
This is picky however, as this is a truly brilliant night out. cut to the chase... always offer excellent value, top quality rep theatre, in their friendly, comfortable, home at the Queen's. This show is an ideal demonstration of the heights they can reach, and judging by the appreciative, packed out house at the second preview, they are in for a great run.