Return to the Forbidden Planet NODA Review
National Operatic & Dramatic Association
Society : MAOS
Production : Return to the Forbidden Planet
Date : 13th – 16th March 2019
Venue : The Shelley Theatre, Marlow
Report by : Susan Boobyer-Pickles
Thank you so much for inviting NODA to review your current production. Return to the Forbidden Planet can be a bit challenging for the audience if they do not get the Shakespeare connection or know the basic premise of the Tempest story, however it is a wonderful romp through the story backed up by well chosen musical anthems that everybody will recognise. Certainly the audience had a great time on the night I attended.
I like the way that MAOS operate with a well-defined Production person/team to help the Director, MD and other team members. This certainly helps to spread the load on the big musical productions, and I guess many groups would like to have a Katy Mitchell in their ranks. The creative team must have had a good and clear idea about what they wanted which showed in all aspects of the show. Director Matt Warwick did well to oversee the bigger picture and ensure that the obvious hard work done by the MD’s and Choreographers was able to shine through on the small playing area. The staging was well managed by Raymond Medhurst considering the small playing area with the band at the back of the stage behind a raised platform and in front of a projection screen. Set pieces of staging at the sides worked well and use of the auditorium floor and door also allowed interest. With a large cast the staging allowed everyone to be seen and avoid blocking issues. In term of this piece the one thing missing for me was attention to the line delivery and the poetry of the words which help with the comedy aspects of the production.
The music was brilliantly played and directed by Andrew Smith and his small band. The balance of voice and music was very good and at no time did the music levels overpower the voices. The cast had been very well drilled by Samantha Cleaver and Andrew Smith.
Samantha and Rachel Dixon had clearly worked very hard on the choreography for the dance troupe and the ensemble. I was very impressed that each number had its own style, character and feel; each movement set worked well with the piece of music and story being told. The cast really portrayed your vision very well.
I loved the costumes and everyone looked immaculate in their colour co-ordinated tunics, with the main characters following the same theme but with their own little characteristics. The attention to hair and make-up was also well done. I did like the girls sparkly highlights as it all added to the overall science fiction look and feel. Prospero and Miranda also looked great in their outfits; the Ariel costume was very well thought out especially with the wig harking back to a 50’s era. Well done to everyone in creating a wonderful look for your show and to the cast for taking such good care on their overall appearance.
Lighting design by Andrew Medhurst was fun, bright and colourful. Good use of moving lights and interesting Gobo’s created a very jazzy effect which was very appropriate for the show and complimented the 60s/70s music. The illuminated arch work well to highlight various parts of the production. There was some great cued lights with SFX.
Sound was provided by Stephen Medhurst and largely everything worked well. On the night I attended sadly the mic worn by prospero for his opening backstage/on screen dialogue did not work; hopefully this was sorted out in future performances. Levels were more or less OK although I did feel a couple of the actors were a bit low in dialogue – although not always an issue of sound also of projection. Importantly the music did not drown out the actors and certainly during the many musical numbers there was an excellent sound quality. SFX and other cues were of a high standard.
The one thing that could have benefitted from a little more thought was the screen projections - I have no idea if these were done live or recorded. The newsreaders did a fine job but came across a little flat amongst all the colour and sparkle; a more pronounced delivery and look/character for each newsreader, plus and a setting, would have helped enormously. Of course we all loved the “monster” which was a rather sweet interlude and hopefully Ashleigh is a star in the making. The full head shot of Prospero was fine and quite dramatic – done live we all saw the result of technical malfunction – maybe recording this section would have worked better.
This show is very much a team effort and can be done with a very small ensemble or indeed with a large supporting cast as in this case. I enjoyed watching the two groups – dancers and ensemble cast – mainly because everyone really seemed to know what they were doing. With such structured movement it is very clear if anyone deviates from the choreography; a couple of instances caught my eye but really this was excellent ensemble movement. Also, the ensemble committed themselves well in terms of facial expression and physical reaction to each number which was essential in this stylised portrayal, danced with energy and smiled throughout. Everyone involved in the meet and greet and with the audience generally before the start of the show really set the scene and should be congratulated. The ensemble don’t get to sing many of the songs but contributed some nice backing and harmonies.
Captain Tempest (Tom Everitt) played the part confidently although would have liked a bit more expression in the dialogue. Good singing and movement – particular favourites were It’s a Man’s world and Young Girl. I was impressed with the ability to ad lib during the mic malfunction and to keep the action going – live theatre you just never know.!!
Science Officer/Gloria (Lucy Newell) a real powerhouse when on stage and a lovely change of character from science office to Gloria. Real highlights were It’s a Man’s World and Go Now. Was able to hold her own on stage but had a believable relationship with the other characters. Great all round performance.
Doctor Prospero (Charles Padley) it was unfortunate to have the mic problems on the night I attended and I hope this was sorted – it’s a nightmare for any actor and well done for coming out front to try to carry on especially as much of the important story telling is done in this speech. However, as the show progressed nerves were calmed we could see the character come through and there were some lovely moments especially with Gloria (Go Now) and of course the wonderful Monster Mash.
Cookie (Nathan Curzon) a great expressive performance by Nathan as the young Cook. A lovely singing voice with lovely Bass tones and good delivery of the Shakespeare lines. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed watching this young actor and seeing the character changes with each of the on stage relationships. All songs delivered really well. Good job.
Miranda (Helen Aspinall Da Encarnacao) another lovely performance from a young person showing a real commitment to the part. Helen played the Feisty Miranda very well and really came into her own in Act 2 as the vampish Miranda – wonderfully acted scenes with The Captain and Ariel. Robot Man was very well done.
Bosun Arras (Nick Blanks) a nice cheeky character who related to the other members of the cast well. I actually think the character could have been taken a bit further but when on stage you played your part well.
Ariel (Ben McLachlan) I really loved your version of Ariel – clearly the silver tones in the outfit and the wig helped enormously – but you had to find the facial expression, the movement and mannerisms and then maintain them throughout. I was impressed you managed to keep your hands in the “closed” pose throughout. Never once did you fall from character especially hard to do in the songs and movement. A brilliant performance and a great walk!!
Navigation Officer (Jacqui Pirie) a very credible performance from Jacqui. While the character does not have many words all of them were well delivered and very clearly heard. Well done for always staying in character while on stage.
There were so many things to like in this production and I do hope the cast enjoyed it as much as the audience did. Thank you for a great evening’s entertainment.
Susan Boobyer-Pickles (and Terry Hunt)
Regional Representatives, London District 14