The 25th Anniversary Tour of Bob Carlton’s Return to the Forbidden Planet crash-landed at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre on Monday night with a brilliant burst of bombast, bastardised Bard and B-movie style.

The storyline is loose; a spaceship on a routine flight hits an asteroid field (celebrated by a quick rendition of Great Balls of Fire) and crashes onto an unknown planet where they find the mad Professor Prospero and his beautiful young daughter Miranda who falls in love with the ship’s Captain Tempest. In the meantime the errant Science Officer, who abandoned ship on arrival, returns and reveals herself as G.L.O.R.I.A. the wife of Prospero who has hitherto been cast as the baddie (complete with Eastern European accent) but who subsequently explains that she had only set him adrift into space fifteen years earlier to save him from his own invention; a formula that can realise the desires of your imagination but which didn’t necessarily protect itself from the demons that lurked within your own subconscious; cue monster attack!

You don’t have to worry too much if you’re not following the whole narrative as Brian May pops up on screen intermittently in the role of Chorus to fill you in. Plus the secondary storyline of the loveable Cookie character, who is set up as Romeo but becomes Buttons, has a jaw-dropping middle riff guitar section which spans the decades from the 50s to 90s (yes there is a Nirvana reference thrown in there for good measure too!) and ends up as we started; with him remaining the foil and in his lower status role.

The actors are all extremely competent musicians, playing and singing a range of rock ‘n’ roll classics that are woven into the narrative. Some of the references are more tenuous than others; when Miranda’s advances to the Captain are initially spurned she breaks into Why Must I be a Teenager in Love? and this is volleyed back by the Captain with You’re Much Too Young Girl but all are great fun, performed with immense rock ‘n’ roll vigour and absolute musical flair. The music is definitely the main thrust of the piece with the tongue-in-cheek storyline told in its mixed up language playing a clear second fiddle.

For those who are more familiar with Shakespeare’s works, there’s a sideline entertainment to be had through Bard Bingo; trying to place the lines to the different source plays that they have been lifted from. I didn’t get a full-house but I did spot versions of lines from The Tempest, Romeo & Juliet, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, The Comedy of Errors, Othello and The Merchant of Venice, although the groan of the night was a terrible Hamlet mention referring to the significance of one of the alarm signals: “Two beeps, or not two beeps?” “That is the question!”

The light show and sound quality of this well-stacked touring rig is brilliant and brings a rock concert vibe to the production which was echoed by the audience who were, by the end of the night, on their feet, clapping, dancing and whooping. Return to the Forbidden Planet is nearing the end of its tour but is on at Blackpool Grand Theatre until Saturday 2 May so make sure you don’t miss out on this slice of influential entertainment. Tickets can be booked here or by phone on 01253 290 190.


Reclaim Blackpool - Mapping Sexual Harrasment
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    Melanie Whitehead is the Creative Director of The Old Electric, Blackpool's newest theatre. She previously worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

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