Return to the Forbidden Planet – New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham 31/1/2015

“Have you flown before?” asked the lady sitting next to me. She and her husband had come from Wales to see the show and they were big fans.

“Oh yes” I replied “several times but not since the mid 1990’s”

I wasn’t on a plane. I was centre seat, second row at the New Alexandra Theatre for the 25th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s long forgotten rock ‘n’ roll musical Return to the Forbidden Planet.

Cast members in spacesuits were prowling all three floors of the theatre, checking bags of sweets “to see if they have alcohol in them”

The Captain walks along the front row “Drunk yet?” he asks one patron, she laughs.

Then the Bosun picks up a cup of sweets from an empty chair “FREE SWEETS!” he announced. A flustered looking lady appeared “Those are mine!”

The show hadn’t even started yet.

When it did start, Bosun ran through the “Emergency Procedures” pointing out *all* the emergency exits.. and then a practice run of “Reversing the Polarity” should it be needed.. more of that later.

They take their places for take off and two drummers start beating out “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris .

All the cast can play several musical instruments from guitars to trombones. It’s part play, part musical, part rock concert.

The premise is basically Shakespeare’s The Tempest. A spaceship on a routine mission is caught in an asteroid storm and drawn to a mysterious planet by an unknown force. There the crew encounter Dr Prospero – who had been missing for some years, his daughter Miranda and kind hearted robot Ariel. Prospero claims he was sent to the planet by his wife who in a twist of fate is the ships Science Officer Gloria.

Prospero it seems has been working on a formula called “The X Factor” that allows him to create things with his mind. But his sub conscience anger has created a big, nasty, green tentacled monster that attacks the ship.

To add to Prospero’s woes, his estranged wife has turned up, his daughter is in love with the Captain of the ship, the Captain is in love with the daughter but won’t admit it and the Cook is in love with the daughter who doesn’t love him.

And it’s narrated by Brian May.


Over the 2hrs 45mins running time we are treated to comedy, romance, adventure and a myriad of 50’s and 60’s classics.

Have to mention the following:

Mark Newham (Cookie) for is incredible guitar solo during “She’s Not There” and an awesome performance all round.

Sean Needham (Captain Tempest) for making every single female in the audience swoon with “Young Girl” and also some fine comedic timing.

Jonathan Markwood (Dr Prospero) for a checked trousered, dress coat wearing, Elvis impersonating, demented Dr and a mean renditions of “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “All Shook Up” and “Monster Mash”. Worth a mention that Mr Markwood has an album out.

Joseph Mann as the high kicking, backside wiggling, fire breathing – yes really, jazz singing, robot Ariel. A fantastic job. There has been mention that he should have been on roller skates but to be fair the set didn’t really allow for that, so stop being picky.

Sarah Scowen (Miranda) has a fabulous voice and really belted out “Mr Spaceman” at the end.

Christine Holman (Gloria) again brilliant performance and an incredible version of “Go Now”

Those are just some of the stand out songs, the whole cast was superb and every song drew applause after applause.

For an encore the cast came back out and gave us a mini concert of “I heard it through the grapevine” and “Johnny B.Goode”

The entire theatre was up and dancing. Fantastic atmosphere.

If Captain Tempest and his crew are flying into a theatre near you then GO. NOW.

See what I did there..? hehehehehe

Reversing Polarity.. as you do.

For more info visit


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