Thursday, October 23, 2014


Return to the Forbidden Planet

Queen’s Theatre launches 25th anniversary UK tour

The Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, proudly launches the 25th anniversary UK tour of Return to the Forbidden Planet, the Olivier Award-winning rock ‘n’ roll musical, on 6 November.

This fantastic show blasts off from Hornchurch, where its run until 15 November is very nearly sold out already! It will then tour the country until the summer. It stars the cut to the chase… company, the Queen’s permanent ensemble of actor-musicians.

Dashing Captain Tempest and his flight officers take audiences on an exciting interplanetary adventure into hyperspace, where they meet mad scientist Prospero, his beautiful daughter Miranda and Ariel, the amazing rock ‘n’ roller-skating robot. Battling asteroid storms and faulty Photon Shields, does this motley crew ever get to the bottom of Prospero’s mysterious X Factor formula? And can they escape the Monster from the Id?

Premiering in 1989 in the West End before winning an Olivier the following year, Return to the Forbidden Planet sees members of its original creative and design team reunite for this special celebratory production including creator and writer Bob Carlton and designer Rodney Ford. This will aptly be Mr Carlton’s last production at the Queen’s, where he has been Artistic Director for 17 years. He leaves to pursue his freelance directing career.

This wonderfully feel-good family musical is a glorious mixture of influences. Inspired by the 1956 sci-fi B-movie Forbidden Planet – which is itself based on The Tempest - Return to the Forbidden Planet also manages to add a dash of Freudian psychoanalysis to the mix! Bob Carlton’s creation, written in blank verse, is driven by a delightfully unlikely selection of rock ‘n’ roll hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s and a hilarious take on Shakespeare’s greatest quotes!

As the first major musical to popularise the actor-musician ensemble, the show includes cosmic classics from The Animals, The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison, to name a few. All played live on stage by cut to the chase…, who swap a multitude of instruments between them in a dazzling musical relay!

Return to the Forbidden Planet ran for four years in the West End, was nominated for two Outer Critics’ Circle Awards in New York and has delighted hundreds of thousands across the world, amassing a loyal cult following.

The cast includes cut to the chase… members Georgina Field, Christine Holman, Callum Hughes, Greg Last, Joseph Mann, Jonathan Markwood, Sean Needham, Mark Newnham, Sarah Scowen, Steve Simmonds and Fredrick “Frido” Ruth.

Return to the Forbidden Planet is directed by creator and writer Bob Carlton, with design by Rodney Ford, movement direction by Fredrick “Frido” Ruth, musical supervision by Julian Littman, musical direction by Greg Last, lighting design by Mark Dymock and sound design by Ben Harrison.

Bob Carlton's swansong runs at the Queen’s Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch from 6 – 15 November. Tickets are £12.50 - £26.50. To book, call the Box Office on 01708 443333 or book online at

photograph of the Queen's 2012 production by Nobby Clark



You have to know it, you have to love it. The Great White Way, that is. Not so much to appreciate this accessible but seriously entertaining show, but to deliver the spoofs, parodies and pastiches with such consummate skill and obvious affection.

The five performers in this “fringe revival transfer” – not least the indefatigable pianist Joel Fram – are all steeped in the tradition, and take no prisoners in their viciously accurate attacks on the foibles and follies of musical theatre.

It kicks off with front of house fun: mobiles, tweets – Everyone Thinks They're A Critic – and touts, flogging duff seats in the style of Fugue for Tinhorns.
Then the performers are in the firing line: from triple threat professional children abused by director Trunchbull to veterans of the musical stage, this latter category enhanced by the presence of Christina [Diva Moments] Bianco. Liza, Angela, Kristen Chenoweth, the original Glenda, Madalena Alberto, the new Evita, Rita and Cheeta the two Anitas head to head, and Bernadette Peters – See Me On A Monday Please. Amongst the boys, male chanteuse Mandy Patinkin – Somewhat Overindulgent – Hugh Jackman, Alex Wonka Jennings and Robert Lindsay, currently over the road at the Savoy. All nailed by the hard-working quartet of singers: Anna-Jane Casey, Ben Lewis and the superb Damian Humbley joining the aforementioned Miss Bianco.
No show, it seems, is left unpanned – Cats auditioned a la Chorus Line, cardboard cut-out dummies in Les Mis, Wicked – Defying Subtlety – Miss Saigon mercilessly trashed, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia. And no-one is too big to be brought down – Sondheim and Ho Chi Cameron both victims – and even the corporate sponsors are named and shamed.
Forbidden Broadway – a firm favourite on both sides of the pond – is devised and written by Gerard Alessandrini and directed by Phillip George.

I don't usually condone, much less publish, pirated pictures or video, but it seems in keeping with the show's opening to share this shaky mobile phone footage from last summer, when the Menier cast appeared, along with many of the shows they lampoon, in Trafalgar Square for West End Live.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Horrible Histories at the Civic Theatre

Who you calling barmy ? Well, a historical ragbag of characters that made this country great, from the Vikings to Queen Victoria. All of them brought to life in a shamelessly silly couple of hours that also managed to feed us some fascinating facts from our island's story.
It all began with a pair of nothing-o-see-here jobsworth traffic wardens [Alison Fitzjohn and Laura Dalgleish] who soon get roped in to join Benedict Martin and Gary Wilson to romp energetically through the footnotes to the history books, against an animated cartoon backdrop [in glorious Bogglevision for Act II].
A Valkyrie Boudicca, Vikings looking to relocate to Lindisfarne, Muslims massacred at Acre, William [from the audience] cured of the Black Death, the Groom of the Stool, a Whipping Boy, Henry VIII as a petulant puppet, a TOWIE Dick Turpin, a Hip Hop Widow of Windsor, and comedy Bones in their Pockets Irishmen Burke and Hare. Lots of Game Shows – Guy Fawkes on “Who Wants to Blow Up Parliament?” - and a few genuine surprises, like the Dale Dyke Dam Disaster, whose 150th anniversary was commemorated this year.
Even the causes of the Great War were given a knockabout outing, before a properly respectful moment of remembrance, with a biplane strewing 3D poppies over the stalls.

Monday, October 20, 2014


The Phoenix Theatre Company in Christchurch Hall

Mary Redman was at the opening night:

Inishmaan Island is off the far west coast of Ireland whose nearest due west neighbour is America. This impoverished part of the country was known during the 1930s as one of the most backward areas where tiny villages relied on fishing and keeping a few animals to survive. Education was lacking and gossip thrived amongst both women and men.
This is the setting for Martin McDonagh's “Comedy Drama” which was chosen by Phoenix for their latest production with Sarah Wilson as director.
This wasn't an easy play to stage with its difficult demands on the cast's acting abilities and their voice projection.
The atmosphere livened up a bit, however, with the arrival of Syd Smith's Johnnypateenmike with his “news” of events further afield. Gemma Anthony's Helen, a sparky young lady not given to tolerance, proved to be the most strikingly lively cast member whose words were easily audible to the hall.
The hero of the piece Billy, a young man with physical impairments who had been teased all his life as “Cripple”, was thoughtfully played by Liam O'Connor. In addition to his existing problems he receives the news that he also has a fatal form of tuberculosis (and no treatment where he lives).
Really the play came to full life whenever the adult male cast were down on the beach and so much nearer to the audience. We could hear every word from Geoff Hadley as BabbyBobby preparing his boat to go to sea. Another bright spark was Clare Woodward's Mammy O'Dougal with her drinking and eccentric ways. There was also enjoyable use of old film of the fishing industry of the time.
Chris Saxton's design incorporated a tiny shop and its living accommodation plus the really clever use of a rowing dinghy and pebbles on the auditorium floor. This led to one of the major difficulties of the production. Sarah had chosen to block the back wall of the stage with a long shop counter. This meant that a useful acting area was obstructed, many of the cast were upstaged and the cast's voices were too weak to travel the sheer distance in the long hall. The counter could have easily been on one side and further downstage.
Pace would have been helped if some of the cast had been surer on their words, as we heard the Prompt fairly frequently.
And when amateur groups are deciding what to perform they really do need to take into account their knowledge of the background to the play. If a troupe from Inishmaan had tried to put on a play about Essex Girls the result would more than likely have been much the same as this production. To have heard every word would have been great.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014



New Adventures and Re-Bourne at Sadler's Wells


Golding's cautionary tale has been staged before [ and filmed twice ]. Now it's an inspired dance piece from Matthew Bourne's New Adventures and Re:Bourne.
Adapted, with typically creative perversity by Bourne and his co-director Scott Ambler, it retains characters and events from the novel, and successfully captures its spirit, despite giving the island the elbow and stranding these lost boys on the cavernous stage of a deserted playhouse.
As we take our seats, the excited buzz is echoed through the open scene dock; it builds in a crescendo of whistles and rioting before the choirboys, smartly regimented, come marching in.
The fixtures and fittings are imaginatively pressed into service – costume rails, wicker skips, fire buckets. The conch is a [Shell] oil drum, Piggy is crushed by a massive lamp dropped from the flies. The boys forage for crisps and icecreams.
Bare feet, bullying, tribalism mark the breakdown of civilization. We see violent subjugation, a showdown, and a tsunami of rubbish thrown down onto the stage before the UN blue beret rides to the rescue. The teddy bear, who's survived it all, is abandoned with the last vestige of innocence as the boys troop off the way they came in, leaving Ralph [Sam Archer] to ponder the catastrophic events played out on the jungle stage.
Much of the dancing is visceral and strongly rhythmic. Simon, the dreamer, beautifully danced by Layton Williams, has a wonderful solo with cello accompaniment [Robin Mason, presumably the only live musician against the pulsing back track – the score, by Terry Davies, moving from choral to wild clamour]. He's joined by Ralph and Piggy [Sam Plant] in a tender pas-de-trois.
The death of Simon – washed out to sea like Piggy in the book – is superbly done, and the Beast [ a zombie corpse ? a passing vagrant ? ] is genuinely terrifying, not least when he is brought to life by the tiny witness. Jack, the feral baddie set against Ralph's reasonableness, is a physically expressive Danny Reubens.
The Wells is just one stop on a national tour, recruiting 22 boys at each port of call. A dream opportunity for them, and for the audience an amazing realization of an iconic story.