Friday, 8 March 2013

In Review: Return to the Forbidden Planet

Return to the Forbidden Planet
Performed by students of LGGS & LRGS
At The Dukes, Lancaster
Reviewed by Jane Sunderland

Performed by students of Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Lancaster Girls' Grammar School, this production of Return to the Forbidden Planet (scripted by Bob Carlton) is fun from start to finish. It is an ambitious choice. But while not everyone will follow its sometimes creative links with the narrative of The Tempest, and almost no-one will pick up all the intertextual references to a whole range of other Shakespearean plays, it is hard not to have a good time watching the crew of the USS Albatross and their visitors from planet D'Illyria: Doctor Prospero (played with suitable gravitas by Jonny Daley), his robot servant Ariel (Sam Baldwin), his daughter Miranda (Lucie Moore), and a sort of Caliban counterpart (or is that my misinterpretation?) in the shape of the unique Ruaidhri Johnston plus three monstrous purple tentacles. As an example of facial comedic acting, magnified on screen, this creature's entrance cannot be beaten.

Return to the Forbidden Planet cleverly incorporates song lyrics into the dialogue, but what it thrives or wilts on is its music, and this production does not disappoint. Of the thirteen-strong very professional-sounding band, several are on stage throughout. There are some strong singers among the cast, in particular the very professional Lucie Moore, Ellie Danson, who plays Gloria, Science Officer and Prospero's evil (or is she?) wife and Will Fielding's thoroughly sympathetic Cookie. If you were, or wish you had been around when gems such as 'Teenager in love', 'Who's sorry now' and 'Great balls of fire' were first released, are always moved by a well-sung 'Go now', or are more of an Easy Rider sort of person and look back fondly on 'Born to be wild' (sung by Krishnan Ram-Prasad's suitably reluctant-to-commit Captain Tempest ), then you will feel completely at home watching this production.

There is a large cast (the Albatross needs a large crew with a wide range of skills), which works well in that this enables several large ensemble singing-and-dancing pieces, all of which are very carefully choreographed and timed. Of the crew, Madeleine Shields shines as the Navigation Officer who frenetically steers the Albatross through an ever-changing universe.

Return to the Forbidden Planet is also an ambitious choice because of the 'back story' of what on earth Doctor Prospero is doing so far away from home, and this is beautifully and melodramatically told in black-and-white on a large screen at the back of the stage. This device also enables Ruaidhri Johnson to make an appearance as 'Newscaster', but perhaps this segues with his other role as Assistant Director? Ruaidhri writes in the programme "I couldn't be happier with the last joint school production I'll be involved with, and I'll miss it an awful lot". The loss is really that of the LRGS/LGGS drama community.

Jane Sunderland

Dates still to run: Friday 8 March, Saturday 9 March, 7. 30 p.m.

Venue: The Dukes, Moor Lane, Lancaster LA1 1QE
Tel. 01524 598500 or visit
Tickets:  £10.00 (£8.00 concessions)

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