Centre Stage Company’s latest offering, ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’, certainly offers something different to the usual crowd favourites.
The show is set aboard the Albatross spaceship – with the red jumpsuit clad cast putting on their best American accents to welcome you to the ship upon entering the theatre.
Castle Manor Academy drama teacher Steve Powter chose the quirky play for his directorial debut with the amateur dramatics group, and reunites with former student Joe Craig who reprises his role as the protagonist Captain Tempest who he played at school.
It seems strange for the show to start with just a handful of main characters when there are often close to 20 on the stage, but Craig’s powerful voice and humour with Bosun (Andy Letcher) maintains interest despite that.
Letcher gets bursts of humour throughout but not much of a sustained role, though Craig excels in his performance as the captain and in some of the early stages carries the show.
The cast soon grows as they reach the planet with Jim Morgan providing a powerful presence and not shying away from the high notes as Dr Prospero, and is perhaps the character that expresses himself most through the show.
Prospero is soon followed by his daughter Miranda (Daisy Webb), who swiftly falls for Tempest.
Webb performs her songs well and convinces in showing her affections for the captain, though it seems unfortunate she gets to do little more than be the stereotypical damsel.
The most entertaining character is the robot Ariel, James Malone looking a strange sight in silver clothing and paint as he scoots around on roller skates, though he performs the role superbly.
Maximillian Murphy grows into the play in his role as Cookie, getting laughs as the neglected corner of the love triangle with Miranda.
He threatens to turn antagonist in his pursuit of her, his initial humorous flirtations soon becoming sinister plotting as the captain is favoured over him, but throughout this his keeps the audience laughing.
Lorraine Mason does well as she returns as the science officer, but as with several of the characters gets little chance to establish herself as the songs come thick and fast.
The bursts of dialogue that come between the songs are in Shakespearean English – seemingly odd on a spaceship – with numerous references to the bard thrown in such as ‘Beware the aides that march’ and ‘Two beeps or not two beeps?’
This can make the plot a bit tricky to follow, though with it more a feet-tapping sign-along than a deep story anyway, that does not affect the enjoyment of the spectacle.
The play is delivered at a fast pace which keeps you gripped, and the familiar songs are delivered enthusiastically, although some do seem to start a little unnaturally.
Powter has delivered in his first directorial bow as he took a risk in choosing such a play, but it is delivered well by the cast and was well received by the audience.
Hopefully he will have another chance to shine with Centre Stage and the group will continue to embrace such quirky plays.
There are 7.30pm showings tonight (Wednesday, October 23), tomorrow (Thursday, October 24), Friday (October 25) and Saturday (October 26), with a 2.30pm Saturday (October 26) matinee.
Call 01440 714140.
For all the latest news see tomorrow’s (Thursday, October 24) Echo.