It blew up in the B-movie, but now it’s back. And it’s big. Stephen Chester straps on his booster pack and investigates cult musical Return To The Forbidden Planet.
Bob Carlton, a man with an untlinching commitment to : tacklness: ‘But soft that light from yonder airlock breaks’
8 The List 4—l7 June 1993
hey arrive in spacesuits. They carry hairdryers and pretend they‘re ray- guns. They dance about a lot. And that‘sjust the audience. ‘lt‘s a phenomenon. and it makes me laugh a lot. but I think it’s great.’ claims Bob Carlton, with the sort of casual charisma you’d expect from the creator of a new and rapidly expanding cult.
But it doesn’t take FBl‘s Tobacco and Alcohol squad to tell you that one man’s cult is another man’s weirdo delusion. does it? And it certainly is tempting to dismiss the object of such eccentric devotion as merely some hideous nightmare become reality: The Trekkies Go Rocky Horror. But the latest sinister developments must surely worry all who feel that seeing a musical over 100 times is a little odd, for the show has embarked on what will probably become a perpetual national tour.
The foundation for this insidious cult is Return To The Forbidden Planet, a big budget sci-ft musical featuring numerous rock and roll
explains. ‘I think one of the things is when you walk into the theatre you're greeted by the actors as if you‘re going onto a spaceship. The stage and the set are the llightdeck. We never do a soliloquy in the show, you talk to the passengers. You feel part of it. and I think that‘s why people dress up.‘
The genesis of this fiendish scheme took place a decade ago. when Carlton took the theatrical return journey to MGM’s cinematic forbidden Planet in order (he claims) to provide London's Bubble Theatre with an accessible musical. The Bubble‘s policy of taking theatre out to communities which weren't primary theatre users —- the company performed in a large tent — was an ideal cnviromnent in which Carlton could develop his techniques of audience control. These techniques would later prove
vital when the actors made themselves producers and raised the funds for a West End opening.
For all his success Carlton is still espousing modesty and the usual ‘I wanted my invention to be used in peace-type lines. ‘lt was a deliberate populist
classics performed live on stage. Since opening in l989 it’s been selling out at nearly every performance. and has now opened on several other continents after winning the prestigious Olivier Award. beating Aspects Of Love and Miss Saigon in the process. Has no one seen Invasion 0f
‘lt’s just your stereotypical 19505 B-movle spaceship crew flung into outer space and coping with monsters and crash landings and asteroid storms. The sort of stuff you normally see on stage.’
show which i thought would appeal to the thinysomethings because of the numbers we were using — the late 50s and early ()(ls songs that I loved so much. They kind of came into fashion because by the time it got to the West End all these jeans adverts had been screened so a new generation
The Body Snatchers? Are
they not aware of the danger? Apparently not. All over the country. more and more hairdryers are going missing on certain evenings. Why? Bob Carlton, the man who first dreamt up the show a decade ago.
knew the songs. And it has this
fantastic story which kids can understand — but that's all down to Shakespeare.‘
The production is in pan based upon the blank
verse of The Tempest -— the other parts being
filled by bands such as the Beach Boys and Bob