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Bill EdwlIl'd,; di:;C1Isses IIi;; pr{ldurtioll ./Clr CiliIlS!'"..1 A 0 [<05 ,li llie Kt'Illlelll Mare fiIC<1l re, lifoI'd, Wllh

dSS islul/ce from


Ut'SIXII('/' Senile DlIllis IIlId tn, (' MmlUgrr 1,'1\' Rill/Sa.

adve n tu res a p t ~ in '~ ' t11 pest and hi., crt'W as they v~ntur" forth into h p<.'rspacc ab<k1rd Routll1l' ienti fi c ' un'l'Y Flight \line. Havu\ bl'e/l lett powerles:' by iUl ,1 teroid storm a nd d ,. 'rted by their Science Hicer, the sh ip I'lnds on the pbne t D'III)'ri" , w here they l'nCoLlnter Dr Pro 'pero, his la ughte r Mir,lnd" ,md his sen 'il> dron > Arid. Lpon ing each other, MiTG/lda f,llb in love with Tempest, and Cooki, the ships hapll'$.' young cook, fulls in love with 'vlirdnda. " lfe learn from Prnspern that he \\IllS lllilroollcd in spa e


his wife (who is one and the s,lml' ,1S the treacherous Sci('nee Officer), just as they had completed thei r research into 'Teicgenl'sis", which lS creation by purl' thought " lone. The first Act concludes with Gloria the Science Officer bein g reunited wi th the ship ~s she is rescued from till' clu tches of a monstrr by Ariel, which then "ttacks the ship. Aite'r Ariel has dri\'en the monster off with his p hasers, the crew, with Prospcro and Ariel's assistance, labour to repilir the ship, ilnd afte r the recnncilia tion oi Gloriil and Prospero, Mira nda and Tempest d eclaring their love for each other, and Prospero';; ultima te galactic suicid e which causes DIllyri.l to disinteg rate, the ship lifts off to continue its \'oyage "to boldly go where no show has gone before". The show is primari ly b,lscd on the 1960s sci-fi "B" movie 'l 11e Forbidden Planet" which in itseH is based on William Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, and when it first touched down in the tented Bubble Theatre on Blackheath in 1983 the cast consisted of actor-musicians, with all principal and ensemble pl,'yers playing instruments. The show cleverly combines classic 1950s and 60s Rock 'n' Roll songs witil some of Shakespeare's most we.ll-known speeches to convey the story. Due to the unique requirement of the show being conceived fo r actor­ musicians, the desire not to assemble an "invited" cast, and the fact that hardly any


o f the society me mbers plilyed instruments, the solution was hit upon to have actors and singers in the ca;;t and to have the band on stage in costumes like the cast. In addition to the eight on-stage scripted roles we added four ensemble players.

AUDITIONS Due to the fact that our spring show ended in early May and the d a te booked fo r the tileatre was late July, we had only ten weeks to get the prod uction from the page to the stage. This meant th at audition workshops had to commence prior to the completion of the spring production, with the auditions taking

place the Sunday after the spring prod uction. 1he workshop consisted of two read-through sessions with inte rested members having the opportunity to read pieces of the various parts, and we utilised the show tape to give everyone a flavour of the music. TIle remaining two of the four work 'hops consisted of the MD going over all the musical a uditions to help clarify any problems. Auditions consisted of a minimum of two sections of dialogue and at least one and sometimes two songs. A.riel auditionees were also required to show a degree of proficiency on roller skates.

With only ten week. rehearse, amounting to 27 rehear sdb including lhL' tech and dress, the pr~ uN \ as on from tile start. 11m fact had lxo.'€ n made ven clear, as it was g01l1fl to require ,1 good d ea l lIf "push " from e v ryo n~ i.nvolvL'CI. We com nH!nced \Viti, four w('('b of two 2 ­ hour rehearsals on Mondays and Wednesdays, and th tm;t eight 'weI'C dedicated purdy to learning the music, hannonies, etL. This created time for the' director to ha ve me ting.:; with the Sta ge Manager, Wardrobe Mi str ' ' S, e tc., which hild to take p ldcl' eMly on in till' p roceed ings, again because of time constraints. The fifth w~ k in we added ,1 four-hour Sunday rehearsa l which continued for the remaining five weeks. We pushed hdrd init i" l1y, completing the primary p lotting of all mov('s oi principal characters when spea king or singing in the first six reh earsa ls including revisions, this bringing L to the end of week six. 1 had explained to all the hopefuls, prior to the auditions, that [ Wa;; looking for actors and a(tresse;; who didn't need to be told ev rv IHtle move, but cou ld fill in the in-be tweens for themselves, as [ felt a lot of the good things in the show would develop from [was im pro visation in rehea ron!. fortuna te to be blessed w ith a very talented cast who did just thi s, the enscmbk in particular requ iring very tittle di rection. This leit four wl'eks for move ment furth er "background" development, which had to be inte resting while at the 5<1me tin1e not drawing focus from the principal work, plus running ,1l1d poUshing.

Our initial instinct was for a multi-level set to allow for a g rea ter variety of mo\'(,ment and settings. As no hired sets were available for this production, we had no alternative b ut to design and build our O\<IT\. In addition to the physical look and structure of the se t, we also had to take into consideration the fact that room had to be made for various musicians, music stands, amps, etc., and that various lighting effects needed to be built into the set, along with fixed and hand-held rad ie, microphones. We were fortunate to ha\'o~ an experienced set designer amongst our


....rnbership, r\nd)' Hall, who borated with all the production nn 10 achieve a marvellous set. basic structure was built from tagt' and Steel deck consisting o f ft by 12 ft platform upstage tr that \\'as 6 ft hig h, under hkh tiw drummer was plact~d and ther side of which were hvo 4 ft tjudre p[atfonns 3 ft high. A ramp 1 ran from e,xh 4 ft platform 'w n to stage level. In front of the hum mcr was a 1 ft high, 2 ft by 4 ft latform. Either sidu o f this was a 2 . h igh pla tform sl"'pc'd like :I <idt'S 't J fifty pence piL'CC'. A nJ Vig(l tion ~Insolt:' W,lS buiH il lo ng tlll' Jei\ding ge of the s tage-Ielt platform. A II mmv console to house the M IYs 'ybO,Hd \\'"S built along thl' I"aci ing cdgc' o f the st"gc'-righ t rn5 ~ril .


om tl11l11

fJ ~cia

of tlw set WilS built


121l1m plv painted

L,lin Nkwl Grey! with \(1rgC' rivet 'anb morc' akin to the IlJ30s "Flnsh ,-,ordnn," muvi c..'s th ,Ul

tht' IlH)J"e

",'cent "St"r Tn:k'· fligh t d ocks. The fll'K~r \Vt1S pclint....d


with .1 st(lr patk'rn


some colour. Vi"lrioliS items ~uc h ,1S tentaclE'S, \rideo screen (1nd KJysh'un CenCrMor wt're tlown in ~1 nd

ou t as t1nd when required. 111l'

W c1S lIsed in conjunction 'i.vith ,) video CJnll't'J (lnd video proJector Ivhich werE-' sl't lip in the a rC'(l bt'lo'i.·\, ~t(lg(' to allo\v li ve pictures of the newsca,;kr and Prospcro to appear to (OI1W frnm the 1'Ian(>t\ "urface. This ,1I1c)\\tcd P rospero'~ cn tTann' th rough the air-Io k to happen immedi, tel y fo llowin):; his first ,;pceeh. Fo r the air-lock we utilised the t\watrc' tra p doo r wh ich was posi til)ned centre st(lgC.


MU Ie The band was

i11 illie

up o f eIgh t

musicians, cons ishn.g of 1 kcybCklId, I drums, 2 g uitars, 1 b, ss, 1 saxopho ne, I trumpl't and I trombo ne. All of Ule music tn the show is weLl kn O\'~1 50s and AOs Rock 'n' RoU,.whic h o n the face of it would present few prob kms. However, some of the backing harmonies are vcry tig ht ilnd in some pl'Kes quite complicated. Each number in itsel f is ,1 virtual ,how-stop pe r and both C,lst and band a ttacked the m with great a lacrity, csp0Cially numbers such as 'Great [Jails of Fire" and "Johnny B Goode". 111e decision made to have the band On stage proved a rea l winner w i th both the band the mselves, who were pleased to be able to perform fo r once rather than bdng unseen in the pit, and the audience, and th€ band's performance enhanced tha t of the actors. The bimd's contribution can in no way be over-stdted. And they p icked u p on a lot of in-gags and joined in, in only hvo days.

(OSTUMES Those playing crew members and the band's cos tumes "'ere very straightforward, consisting of


co loured boiler s uits (whi te for female crew; dark g reen for ma le crew; red for Captain Tf mpes t; and blue for ti1e band). To these were added large mNallic sil ver circular yoke coll,lrs, long m atching silve r gauntlets and sil vpr belts. Matching Moon Boots W(lre purchased to

c(Hnplete the uniftJnn, and SOlne fen1itle rre\\' tn.e mbers wore while baseball caps. Cookie ,llso had a \ hi te apron. Prospero' s coStunlc consisted of ,1 blac k jumpsuit with b bck and gold cuffs and collilr. Mirill1da in A l O ne is d... c. ,s""'d , eN much ~kc ,1 Ilobby Saxer, with sty le tlarled "kin and blo use. " 'hite ank l.e SiX · . and pu m p In ct Two she transfonns into a \'amp in u low­ cut red dr~ss, long black lingt~rl l:"S gloves ,mel bli1(k feather boa. To describe 'vvhil.t Arid's costu me \ >,I J$ m,1d" of would til k" an Mtili" all "f its o\vn, SO if anyone i::i inle rested thcv can con tact tl1l' director c/o A~;jATEUR STI\G E, who wou ld be happy to gi"e th em d eta ils.


SOUND AND EFFECTS The sDund rig W il S - to pu t it mildly - a nightm(1re. Each principal singer (nine in dJl) had a body mie. In ,1(ldition to thi b there , ~cre three l1<1nd-hdd m ics and ,ix slrate~ically placed tixed Ini c>; . So und dfects were split between the kc'yboMd p l'1yer, who pro uced the rclc vnn t sounds to accompany the plt,-flight checks and the llxorded me tCtxite explosions, etc. On to p of all Ihi s eac.h membe r or ihe ban d was individually l11ic~d and ,1 cam('ra dnd monito r sys te m had to bc' arranged to enable tile drumnicr to ~ the 1"ID/keybD.1rd player. (This was separate to the Cilmera for the video screen Irnk.)

LIGHTING RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANer is ct g ift to a Lighting Desig ne r. The limit to wha t you do is d ete rmined on ly by your imag ination, ,1nd budget. Andy's set was brilliant to light - the gun meta.! grey panel took colour really wel(, m aking it easy to keep coming up wi th new I(xl ks for all the ongs. 111ere was no cyc - the Keruleth More s tarcloth was an id eal bat kdrop. [ decided at an early s tage that this wo uld be an ideal opportw1ity to use moving lig hts, and wi th good help and assistance from Meteorlites at Borehamwood I got in four Cybcrlights. I knew tha t these would give a good va riety of effects, and as this was the first time I had progra mmed moving lights fo ur was enough to get on wi th w hile still being enough to give the show plenty of looks! The Kerme th More has a Compulite Applause desk and I decided that it would be better to keep the moving ligh ts on their own desk and work two d esks for the show, so I arranged to get a Compact

Animator to control the Cybcrlights. I got in ,; DFSO H,Yle Genera tor to get the best out of the beams from the scans, but the ai r-lock (s tage trap) had ~ g()()d blas t of ,moke ",very lim e it was used and the beams alwa ys cut through well. When Ariel d C5h·o),s the monster a t the beginning of Act "fwo the Kenneth \l ore laser made on excellcnt additional d fect tiu·ough the haze. The Ke!U1 th More is a well­ equipped ~ 1t'atre with over lOll dim mers ,m d ,1 good p rcad of la nte rns, incluo ll1g two tiM t fo llow spO b in the pTOjt'Ction rOom. l\lll.X

bMS can be 110\\'f1 i 11 , So on tile Satu rday night !x,fare the fi t-u p we went in !,lte and moved a ll the li ghti ng rou.nd befon~ the set went in . Sunda y WilS the mai n fil ' u p d" y ,vi th tech nica l nm on Monday. This gav(, me ('\ Int o! cxtm pf'ogran'lming

time on

ue",-by itJ,1d ing up to the

dre;;s which \\"a~ iU"t as well, a< nford had a majo r po,ver-cll t l "",lS on! ' rcctified half tl n hOLir into the d ress-run , Fll r the Kenneth More, th rt.'e da y!> is i. gl'nerous get-in timt:' - SOllle sho\.vs now gQ t tn on Sunda y a.nd open on Mnndav in a d esperate ,1 ttempt to brea k even! FORlllDDlii 1'14\ ) IS too complex to attl'.m pt that. The , ho\\' is structured su ti1<1 t you go from a "basic" look w l1ich is the io"i d e of pop I rock

th e ' (1'

roc ket-ship , to roll songs ,15 a

performance. I decided ltl keep the lig hting to ~ simple formula - light the di'1 logue scenCS wi th pOllis of ora nge w ith <1 (old rT(l light, and light the so ngs \Viti1 p,1I'cans with scrollers, together WIth the scans. This gav" the roc ket a m nod , a tmospheric look and enabled me to get the scrollers and scans to whatever colo ur and focus needed fo r the next song. I could ~1en snap fro m"rocket" to song very tidily. I have to say that I ha ve rarely enjoyed a sho'\' as much as "Planef' . 111e show is structured to keep the operation busy and you could feel a real buzz from the audience right from the first number on the first nig ht right up to the final curtain .

SUMMARY The week proved a grea t high for everyone conce rned, w ith audiences joining ti1e cast and band on stage for the finale, and many favoura ble comments received. I would, however, warn aU those who would aspire to the prod uetion tho t the teclu1ical as pects are extre mel y dalmting and need to be carefully planed and thought through.



Resturn To The Forbidden Planet - Nov 1997  

Bill Edwards discusses his production of Return To The Forbidden Planet for Chingford AD&OS