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Progress Theatre - Return to the Forbidden Planet

14th to 23rd February 2008.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Sci-fi night among the stars

Return to the Forbidden Planet, at Progress Theatre, Reading, until Saturday, February 23

If you like your music rocking, your sci-fi buzzing and your jokes groan-provoking, Progress is the place to be this week as they take you aboard Starship Nine's theoretically routine survey flight.

The stage has been brilliantly transformed into the flight deck of the SS Albatross (cue Fleetwood Mac). What's more, several well-known faces from the Progress stage have been transformed (or revealed their alter egos) as exceptional rock singers.

Bob Carlton's show is a great concept, partly inspired by the 1950s film Forbidden Planet, and taking its cue from the film's nod to Shakespeare's Tempest, full of clever and apposite quotes from lots of the Bard's plays - tick them off as you spot them.

The flight is interrupted by an encounter with the sinister Dr Prospero and his daughter Miranda, who live in isolation on a distant planet.

Cookie, the ship's sweet and innocent galley officer, falls in love with Miranda, but she only has eyes for Captain Tempest ("Boy's Own hero and pipe smoker"), while Tempest resists her - for a while.

Geoff Dallimore, as Prospero, pleads Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood and Sarah Vigars' Miranda enjoys being a Teenager in Love. Peter Charles portrays Tempest with complete assurance, from the clean-cut profile pose, to the gradual lack of composure as he succumbs to Miranda's charms. His singing is faultless, from Young Girl to The Young Ones.

Owen Goode as Cookie is equally brilliant, displaying the heartbreak of lost love conflicting with the loyalty he feels to his Captain, and punctuating the show with his fantastic singing, especially in She's, Not There. Here he has the stage to himself until Alex Wilton, the musical director who has hitherto blended in with the crew, takes the spotlight for a blistering guitar solo worthy of Santana.

Alex has done a great job with his band and with the actors, not least the backing singers, one of whom, Jenny Evans, closes the show with a great performance of Johnny B Goode.

Director Rik Eke proves telegenesis does exist - getting the show into 3D reality with flare and style. No wonder the audience left wanting more.