tzanti (tzanti) wrote,

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Ariel and the Space Cats

No, not a 50s pop group, except in the minds of the Worle Operatic and Dramatic Society.  Last night, they performed Bob Carlton's Return to the Forbidden Planet.  This stage musical is probably the most bizarre to tread the boards of British Theatre, being the alien lovechild of William Shakespeare and Ed Wood.

Imagine, if you dare, The Tempest, with borrowed (and adapted) dialogue from any number of the Bard's works, combined with a dose of Hit Parade classics of the 50s and 60s and a photon torpedo-full of srcewball comedy.  Mix this with Star Trek-inspired sets and costumes and you have, what Carlton described as, Shakespeare's lost rock and roll masterpiece.

I saw the touring version a couple of times in the early 90s, and it was quite a show.  The amateur production was far less lavish, but sci-fi never needed to be lavish.  Until Star Wars, we were happy with wobbly sets and spray-painted hairdryer rayguns.  Why? Because these works had heart, and were unashamed of their limitations.  WODS production was all that and more.

Playing in Weston's Blakehay Theatre, originally built as a Baptist Chapel, the ample cast were crammed on to a small stage, but made use of the balconies for those little asides and for flying a paper rocketship (and Jedi?) across the stage.  A big viewscreen displayed black white film, wobbly special effects, and a green-eyed monster.  It also replayed the narrator, in the original version Patrick Moore, BBC Points West anchor Amanda Parr.

It's a long time since I went to the theatre (Kind Hearts and Coronets about 10 years ago) and this has made me all enthusiastic for drama again.  Forbidden Planet is a hell of a play to pull off as an amateur company.  There must be 20 songs and musical numbers.  The leading lady was a last minute replacement, and had to do much of the show from the script (however, as the science officer, she had a perfect excuse to be carrying a clipboard).  Ariel, the rollerskating robot, was brilliant.  Captain Tempest was Zapp Brannigan reborn.  Miranda went from farmgirl to fox effortlessly.

The chorus in their guises of Zargoodians (gnomes), Zhnorgoidians (beasties), Quwadorgs (witches) and Catmdiquodianoids (our Swinging Space Cats) were amazing, wandering around the stage and the audience, along with their Earthling (human) counterparts.  From the door, where we were scanned with a pink star-shaped hairbrush, to the hall ("May I see your boarding card?"  and the complimentary anti-sickness and anti-madness pills) we got the whole treatment.

The set was replete with monitors, a silver BBC microcomputer, various gadgets and levers.  The Monsters from the Id (Beware the Ids that march) were simple but in the character of classic sci-fi.  The Shakespeare pun were truly awful, as great puns should be.

All in all a great evening out.  We really fell for the Catgirls.
Tags: catgirls, wsm

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