When pipe-smoking Dan Dare-alike Captain Tempest suggests that “It's a trick we might just get away with” in the twenty-fifth anniversary production of Bob Carlton's smash-hit musical, he may be talking about reversing the polarities to save the universe, but it may as well be a mission statement for the show's entire trip. Here, after all, is a play that not only fuses the 1956 science-fiction B-movie reimagining of Shakespeare's The Tempest with a blistering live rock and roll soundtrack, but throws in some hippy-inspired counter-cultural philosophy laced with a soupçon of feminist theory for good measure.
None of this may be immediately apparent when Queen's guitar-playing astro-physicist Brian May opens Carlton's Queens Theatre, Hornchurch production with a filmed prologue that sets the tone of comic book kitsch that follows. By the time Joseph Mann's high-kicking robot Aerial has digested Dr Prospero's mind-expanding formula while Jonathan Markwood's Prospero himself is forced to confront the monsters of the id, however, the show's fringe theatre roots are definitely hanging out.
By this stage we've been treated to Sarah Scowen's Miranda leading an a capella Teenager in Love, while Mark Newnham's love-lorn Cookie steals the show with an astonishing version of The Zombies She's Not There. Top and tailed by Edmund's 'bastard' speech from King Lear, it morphs into Nirvana's Come As You Are by way of Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze and back again. Elsewhere, Christine Holman as the ship's mysterious Science Officer channels her inner Patti Smith on Them's Gloria, while Scowen blasts The Byrds' Mr Spaceman into orbit as a Tina Turner style soul stomper in a show that remains the ultimate retro-futurist mainstream pop-art mash-up.
The Herald, February 11th 2015