Planet delirium?

This review was kindly submitted to the pages of Indielondon by Lucy Hayes. Feel free to do the same, whether shows inspire, disappoint, or simply bring out the wordsmith in you. We look forward to receiving your views....

"HEY y'all! Welcome to Starship Albatross! We are your crew and hope you'll have an enjoyable journey! For your safety and wellbeing there is a mandatory safety procedure we must now carry out ………"

Screeched the American crew members in blue car mechanic overalls and caps as they leapt off the stage and pranced among the arriving audience.

The 'procedure' involved stretching out both arms, waving them about, putting hands on head, pressing up and down, then adding your own sound effects of 'weeeeeeeeeeeee' whilst lowering them!

This demonstration and participation was enthusiastically received by the kiddies and hardcore sci-fi fanatics who knew the drill, but to the rest of the audience, pure shock horror really - I mean, what else was in store?!! Did the whole script involve improvisation?!!

The blue boys and gals then bounced back to the front of the ship and the show began! Hurtling through space and the East Sheen Nebula, stars whizzing past on the digital screen, the crew performing gymnastical moves to reflect the lack of gravity. But, suddenly, disaster strikes and the ship crashes on to Planet d'Illyria where Doctor Prospero, his daughter, Miranda, and their robot, Ariel, coincidently reside - the only survivors of a crash several years previously.

A massive image of .. Patrick Moore (!) ... then appears on the screen emulating the beginning of Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet in which a reporter on a mini-TV screen narrates the 'tale of two star-crossed lovers' and what happened to the stranded three characters. Patrick also appears later, to sum up the first half's action and to predict who'll leg it to the bar first.

Miranda, Prospero's daughter, then enters with a high-pitched Texan accent and immediately enchants Cookie, the hyper, joking teenage cook and the older Captain Tempest.

Cue 'Why must I be a teenager in love?', 'Tell him', 'Achy breaky heart', and 'Ain't gonna wash for a week', when Cookie gets a peck on the cheek after re-enacting Romeo and Juliet's infamous balcony scene.

All the songs are belted out by the multiple-instrument playing cast, especially 'G-L-O-R-I-A', which is sung twice, in case we missed it, and Cookie, the crazy cook's solo guitar performance of 'Johnny B Goode' - Michael J Fox-style, which is filmed and shown on the screen as he's playing.

Bob Charlton, the creator of Return to the Forbidden Planet at Richmond Theatre, is an obvious Shakespeare fan, lacing the show with several famous lines with his own original humour - "two beeps or not two beeps" and "Is this Planet Delirium?".

However, when he asks, 'Where's the Valium?', I found myself pondering the same question! The plot, isolated setting and relationships of the characters of Doctor Prospero, Miranda and Ariel strongly relate to The Tempest and Fred M Wilox's 50s original The Forbidden Planet, but Charlton fuses these with his love of rock 'n' roll.

The digital effects are wicked and atmospheric, especially the 3D green loch-ness style monster with blow up green tentacles, as is the intergalactic planetary scenery.

Of the performers, Prospero the Doctor enters to the Star Wars theme, dresses like Doctor Who but is eeeeevil and Panto-like, encouraging lots of booing as he hatches a plot to take control of the ship and poison Captain Tempest with the "X factor"! And Ariel the robot is funny and a cross between C3PO, a Starlight Express character and a street entertainer. He gets Bowie's 'Hey Mr Spaceman' and 'Robot Man' as his anthems.

By the finale, Captain Tempest and Miranda get to live happily ever after and join in a sing-along of 'Monster Mash' and 'Great Balls of Fire', which creates a Mexican wave in the audience.

All in all, this is a very enthusiastic ending to an original and enthusiastic stage show, the type of which I've never encountered before. However gobsmackingly corny it was at times, this was an experience to be remembered.

RELATED LINKS: Click here for the Richmond Theatre website...

Click here for a review of The Space Family Robinson...