Charity Gala Concert Performance
Sunday 20 July 2008
10 years of cut to
Winner - Best Musical
Olivier Awards 1990
From A Jack To A King
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Phantom Of The Opera
Romeo And Juliet
Oh What A Lovely War
The Glass Menagerie
“Engaging and versatile cast”
It’s A Fine Life!
The Daily Mail
The last 10 years has seen some great
successes at the Queen’s Theatre, thanks to
high-calibre performances from cut to the
chase… the Theatre’s resident ensemble of
Regularly playing to packed houses, this
multi-talented group has grown in strength,
breadth and popularity, presenting a colourful
variety of theatre from musicals and comedy
to Shakespeare and pantomime.
With a whopping 86 shows performed over
the last decade, long-serving company
members, Queen’s Theatre staff and local
theatre critics share their thoughts on the
ongoing success of cut to the chase… and
the company’s highlights over the years.
Artistic Director Bob Carlton says his
personal high point has been gaining
audience’s trust, consequently being
able to introduce more adventurous
theatre, such as bringing Shakespeare
back to the Queen’s stage after an
absence of many years. And crucially,
over the decade, viewing figures have
rocketed from an auditorium which was
just 25 percent full to 85 percent.
“It is very gratifying to know this
was achieved through hard graft and
without having to compromise our
standards,” he says.
Mary Redman, Theatre Critic for The Stage
and Essex Chronicle, admires Bob’s success
in bringing more challenging titles to
Hornchurch through cut to the chase…
She said: “Bob and the company came
in like a breath of fresh air and shook
everything up, very subtly introducing
more demanding work. For example,
The Importance of Being Earnest was
staged in 2001 and A Midsummer
Night’s Dream gently slid in in 2003,
presented in an easy way for people
Musical Director Carol Sloman,
who has been involved in some
35 productions in her nine
years with the Theatre, has
In The Midnight Hour
“Real panache and winning charm”
Happy Birthday to cut to the chase…
especially enjoyed seeing how music and
actor-musicianship has helped to characterise
the success of cut to the chase…
“I love the way music has been integrated
in the stories and how it has managed
to keep its place,” she says. “It has really
given character to the company and
The strong collaboration between members
of cut to the chase…, the Queen’s Theatre
Community Company and Youth Theatre in
Blitz! (2000) has been a particular highlight
for Associate Director Matt Devitt - because
it perfectly exemplified a theatre at the heart
of the community.
For Box Office Manager Jan Sullivan, a
permanent company like cut to the chase…
brings theatre staff and actors closer together.
She smiles: “It makes for a sense of
overall unity in the Theatre. I am
delighted to have formed many lasting
friendships with actors here.”
Administrative Director Thom Stanbury and
Barking and Dagenham Post editor Barry Kirk
both admire the uniquely strong ties between
company members in cut to the chase…
Thom firmly believes actors collaborate better
because they are familiar with each other’s
ways of working and the ensemble format
should be more widespread.
Barry agrees: “The concept of cut to
the chase… as an ensemble company
of actor-musicians was a revelation.
The teamwork among members is
unbelievable - there is no one star, but
instead a group of individual quality
talents working together.
“Also, the creativity of productions
offered by cut to the chase… is such
that you never know what to expect.
And it is this surprise element,
together with the consistently high
standard of theatre that makes you
keep going back for more.”
The 39 Steps
A Message from the Ship’s Captain
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls
Welcome aboard the Intergalactic Starship Albatross
We are currently traveling at slightly under the speed of light on this routine
scientific survey flight. We will shortly be passing through the Romford-Nebula
which you will be able to see through the starboard portholes.
But for the moment, kindly ensure you are safely strapped into your seat - our solar
weather forecaster predicts Great Balls of Fire and Good Vibrations ahead,
so we could be in for a bumpy but thoroughly exciting ride!
Now allow me to draw your attention to the in-flight entertainment this evening -
a faithful re-enactment of 20th century music, specifically from the rock ’n’ roll era.
As you know, this special offering is in celebration of the 10th birthday of the Albatross’
intergalactically-renowned company of android entertainers cut to the chase…
The style may strike you as archaic, but I assure you, in its time, this music was hailed
“explosive” - rather like that meteor shower you can see right now out of your portholes!
So cast your mind back a few centuries and savour these age-old favourites.
The ship has a full range of leisure facilities, including a fully functional replica
of a 21st century café and bar. This feature is generated by a bank of holographic
replicators, though this should not affect the taste and nutritional value of
any historical products purchased.
And there are even more antiquated theatrical gems on the cards when you
travel with us again. Highlights include John Godber’s September in the Rain,
about a human couple enjoying meteorologically-challenged coastal holidays;
Noël Coward’s Hay Fever explores bad etiquette in 20th century
well-heeled society; and The Mummy’s Tomb by Ken Hill, a spooky comedy
featuring a dead body unusually swathed in bandages. And rounding off
the year is the retelling of the Dick Whittington tale - part of the
strange ancient custom of Christmas family pantomime.
Finally, on behalf of the Albatross crew, I would like to express
my heartfelt thanks to you for choosing to fly with us
tonight - your presence will help ensure that the
Starship is able to continue its much-valued services
around the Havering galaxy and beyond.
Enjoy your flight.
The Big Bang
- How a Planet
Do not reverse polarity!
Diana Croft and Fredrick Ruth (2002)
Sarah Beaumont, James Earl Adair and Ian Conningham (2002)
2008 marks 25 years since the birth
of Return to the Forbidden Planet.
Bob Carlton, Artistic Director
of the Queen’s Theatre and the
show’s creator, explains how this
Planet came into being.
The idea for Return to the Forbidden Planet first came
about when I was Artistic Director of the Bubble Theatre
in the early 1980s. The show was the result of the marriage
of two successful concepts - actor-musicians and inventive
borrowing from Shakespeare.
The Bubble was a company of actors and musicians who played a
repertory of shows around the parks of Greater London in a Big Top
style tent. It was formed by a visionary director called Glen Walford
and from her, I inherited the tradition of presenting one Shakespeare
production, one family play and two children’s shows every year.
When these shows had been rehearsed, the actors and the band
would get together to put on a late night cabaret. The show would
consist of some of the company’s favourite songs, which, considering
our vintage, normally turned out to be sixties standards. And intriguingly,
these songs were often dramatised as two-minute psychodramas.
With the Bubble, Glen had created a sort of evangelical company
which brought plays and musicals to people who would not
normally go to the theatre. As such, she was adamant that
all their shows should have music in them, recognizing the
power of music to draw in non-theatre-fans. It is also from
Glen that I inherited the model of a company of eight
actors and a band. The band was often augmented by
any actors who could play a musical instrument.
This format had its problems though. While actors were
constant, musicians would often be tempted elsewhere
by better paid gigs, sending other musicians in to replace
them. This wasn’t helpful because more often than not,
these replacements had not familiarised themselves with
the music. The crunch came in my second year at the Bubble,
when we were doing a production of Bertolt Brecht’s Happy
End. I wanted the band to march in dressed as a Salvation Army
Band playing the opening number, but the Musical Director told me
they couldn’t because they would have to carry their music as they had
not learnt it yet.
“A cult hit”
As a result, I decided the perfect solution for the next season would be to do
away with the band altogether and only employ actors who could play musical
The effect on the audience of performers both acting and playing music
was profound. This is because viewers appear to have a much higher level
of admiration for musicians and this seemed an excellent technique to reel
people in. Audiences who don’t go to the theatre often don’t always appreciate
the skill that acting demands. Perhaps they think anyone could be an actor if
they had the nerve to stand on stage and the capacity to remember the words.
Amazingly, their perception seems completely different if someone can play
three chords on a guitar - this makes the person a musician! And, well, if you
are able to act as well as play music… respect! The season was a tremendous
success and the idea of the Bubble’s company of actor-musicians was born.
Frederick Ruth an
Adrian Cobey (2001)
d Diana Croft (2001)
Before the 1982 season began, I met with
the company’s Musical Director Kate Edgar
to discuss ideas for that year’s band show
and suggested linking all the songs with a
story. As we always did a Shakespeare at
the Bubble, I suggested nicking the story of
Macbeth (well Will himself had nicked a few
stories in his time!). We went down the local
pub for a pint afterwards and as we walked
in, an old bloke was playing From a Jack to
a King on the piano. We realised that in two
minutes, Ned Miller (the songwriter) had told
the protoplot of Shakespeare’s great tragedy and we had found the
central song in what was to be The Hubble Bubble Band Show. This
was, of course, later retitled From a Jack to a King when it went
to the West End.
Frederick Ruth (2001)
The success of this forty-minute late night show led to the
board asking me to write a full-length show in a similar vein
for the 1983 season - and this is really when Return to the
Forbidden Planet was born. I remembered an old sci-fi film
from the fifties that I had liked called Forbidden Planet, which,
despite the appalling B-movie dialogue, had had great reviews
because it imaginatively nicked its plot from The Tempest. This
inspired me to return to my copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works
to do the same cut-up job I had done for From a Jack to a King!
The gestation period for the idea was about eight months
between summer seasons, but the actual writing only
took me two weekends. Having discussed my plot
outline with the company, I wrote Act 1 over
one weekend and then worked it through with
them over the rest of the week. The next
weekend, I wrote Act 2 and worked on it
with the actors during the week. Happily,
Return to the Forbidden Planet went on to
become a big success around the London
Parks that year.
And that, we all thought, was that.
Afterwards, many of us then went our
separate ways - feeling I had served my time
at the Bubble, I decided to go freelance while
the company split up. Matt Devitt, the first Cookie,
went off to become the doyen of children’s television;
Bill Dare, who played Ensign Jockey Schwarz, an original
Planet character cut in later versions, went off to produce Spitting
Image; Annie Miles (Miranda) became a soap star and the rest
of us, as is the way with actors and directors, continued to ply
our trade in theatres from Lands End to John O’ Groats.
One of the freelance jobs I was offered was a production
of the Western Shane at The Everyman Theatre Liverpool
(then run by my old Bubble mentor Glen Walford). But just
before production began, disaster struck and the rights to
the show were refused. In desperation, Glen asked me to
put on “that science fiction thing based on The Tempest”
that I had put on at the Bubble. Although I was reluctant
to do this at first, as I felt it had been written for a specific
audience and an ensemble company, I eventually agreed. It
proved such a success that we remounted it the next season.
The Company (2002)
Ian Conningham and Sarah Beaumont (2002)
Fredrick Ruth and Sarah Beaumont (2002)
Frederick Ruth (2001)
Frederick Ruth, Philip Reed and James Earl Adair (2001)
The Company in rehearsal (2002)
The Company in rehearsal (2001)
“ Had the crowd
bopping in the
Among the audience in Liverpool was the
aisles and me
actor Fred Molina, who was rehearsing
Macbeth down the road at The Liverpool
to all the songs”
Playhouse and, unbeknown to us, he said
how much he liked our show to Nicholas
Kent, who was programming his first season
at The Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn. Nick then
decided to put on Return to the Forbidden Planet
as an alternative panto. At the time, I was contracted to
Mersey Television to direct Brookside, so Glen was charged
with directing the show.
It was at the Tricycle that Andre Ptaszynski, the famous Olivier Awardwinning
producer, saw and fell in love with Planet and decided to put it
on in the West End. Negotiations started immediately with MGM, who
owned the rights to the film Forbidden Planet. After months of waiting,
MGM refused and there the story seemed to end yet again.
Fast forward several years. I had done two-and-a-half years on Brookside
and was about to leave as soon as I had finished the spin-off series
Damon and Debbie. Bobby Aitken, the sound designer on the
original Planet and I were having a pint one day, when he
suggested we got the old Bubble company together
and put on a show “just for a bit of fun”. It turned
out most company members were available, and
with the addition of Alli Harding and Christian
Roberts, we formed the co-operative company
Rhythm Method Productions (a tribute to the
many lapsed Catholics in the cast!) and took
From a Jack to a King to the 1988 Edinburgh
Festival. Again the show was a success and
the Belgrade Theatre in my home town of
Coventry asked if we would perform the show
there. We decided we would prefer to put on
Planet instead and they agreed.
But in the meantime, a breakthrough happened -
MGM had changed hands and the new owner Ted
Turner agreed we could have the rights to perform
Return to the Forbidden Planet afterall. Andre Ptaszynski
offered us basic funding in exchange for the rights to produce the show
in the West End and the rest is history.
Planet opened on 18 September 1989 at The Cambridge Theatre to
rave reviews. Despite the critical acclaim, only about 300 people saw it
each night and, heartbreakingly, after just six weeks, we were preparing
to close. But a second breakthrough occurred when an amazing review
on Gloria Hunniford’s TV show sparked huge Box Office queues and
the show was saved. The following April, Planet won the 1990 Olivier
award for Best Musical and ran for four years in the West End.
The show has been seen all over the world and nominated for numerous
awards. Its success eventually worked its magic at the Queen’s Theatre -
when faced with terminal financial problems, we mounted a production
which went on to tour nationally to full houses, thus allowing the Queen’s
to remain open.
Live Long and Prospero
Bob Carlton, July 2008
The Company in rehearsal (2002)
Returning to Planet
We catch up with cast members from past productions of Return to the Forbidden Planet
who explain why they couldn’t miss out on one more intergalactic flight…
James Earl Adair
Miranda - 1989, West End;
Science Officer, 1996, National Tour
It was a big shock when we won the Olivier Award,
we were just about to go on stage when it was
announced. So, as you can imagine, Wipeout was
performed at about 100mph and Kraig Thornber,
who was Ariel the 6’8” silver robot on roller skates,
leapt really high in the air!
The show has led to many good roles, most
recently the musical Honk! at the Watermill Theatre,
Newbury and I am about to start a Singapore tour
of Blonde Bombshells of 1943.
The show’s music appeals to all age groups - we
have had 11 to 80-year-olds dancing in the aisles!
It will be so good to see everyone again - once you
do Planet, cast members become extended family!
Dr Prospero - 1999, 2001 and
2002, National Tour
I was part of cut to the chase… for about five
years and I enjoy the whole ethos at the Queen’s
Theatre, so I always look forward to coming back.
People enjoy Return to the Forbidden Planet on
so many levels: the live evergreen rock ‘n’ roll
numbers; the homage to the film The Forbidden
Planet; and Shakespeare buffs try and spot
references to his plays. It’s all cleverly linked
and the concept is great fun.
You can watch the show time and time again
and always spot something new. It not only
attracts the old faithfuls, but also a new
following of youngsters and teenagers.
Damage Control - West End
and Japan 1993
The show holds special memories for me as it’s
where I met my husband Julian Littman, who played
Cookie in the production in Japan and is Musical
Director of this show.
Taking Planet to the West End was amazing, there
were 1,300 people on their feet going crazy. It was
the best feeling - I’ve never had anything quite like it
since. In Japan, the show had to be simultaneously
translated, but the audience still went bonkers!
Performing in it has given me lots of confidence and
since then I’ve had roles in The Good Companion in
the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry and From a Jack to
a King in Wimbledon. I’ve recently played in
The Mousetrap in the West End and in September
I’ll be performing in an actor-musician version of
Animal Farm at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Damage Control - West End,
National Tour 2002 and Japan 1993
I wanted to perform in this show because this is a
good chance to raise money for the Queen’s Theatre.
I was part of Planet’s second West End cast, which
was exciting and the response was massive. Because
the piece had been developed by the first cast,
there was a lot of pressure to match up to them, but
Bob is a good director and redirected the show
focusing on the strengths of the new cast.
Because I play the guitar, he created a slot for me
to play it in. Being an actor-musician is never dull -
there is always something to do when you’re not in
character. Instead of going to your dressing room,
you become part of the band. This also bonds the
cast as a team, so you feel much closer to your
colleagues than you would in a normal play.
Science Officer - 2001 and
2002 National Tour
I joined the Queen’s Theatre in 1998 when big
changes were starting to happen, so I wanted to
be involved in this show. I owe a lot to this theatre,
so I jumped at the chance to celebrate 10 years
of the company.
Redoing the old songs and lines will, for me, be a
little strange because so much has happened since
the Tour - most importantly I am now a mother!
Return to the Forbidden Planet was fantastic and
really stretched me as a musician, actor and singer
because blending the songs with Shakespeare was
a challenge. Everybody loves the show’s music and
those songs never die. Planet has also lightened
Shakespeare, so his work becomes easier for
people to relate to.
Axel Dent - 2001 and
2002 National Tour
I knew I wanted to perform in Return to the Forbidden
Planet when I first saw it - it looked like everyone was
having so much fun! And when I joined, it was a blast
every night, especially as I was working with some
very talented, brilliant people.
Since being in the show, I have worked with actormusicians
as musical director of Over the Rainbow:
The Eva Cassidy Story and in the national tour of
the musical Buddy.
Planet has something for everyone - from rock ’n’
roll fans to the sci-fi community. And there are
professors of English who get every Shakespeare
reference - but very few have actually understood that
the spaceship is bleeping in iambic pentameter!
thank you for your support!
Not only does tonight’s Charity Gala Concert Perfomance of Return to
the Forbidden Planet toast 10 years of success for cut to the chase…,
it is held in aid of the Queen’s Theatre’s Development Fund to raise
money for the valuable work the Theatre does throughout the region.
The Queen’s Theatre is a registered charity which depends on public
support to finance its diverse programme and range of community facilities.
Every penny of your money this evening will go towards helping the
Queen’s continue delivering a top-quality service - from producing a
vibrant variety of entertainment to its extensive education work.
cut to the chase… appear in eight Main House shows every year and
company members also present four Queen’s Theatre-in-Education
productions, touring primary and secondary schools across East
London and Essex.
The Theatre’s varied Education and Outreach Programme is aimed at
young people and adult groups to inspire and provide opportunities for
study, performance and professional development. Services include
youth theatre and dance groups, school workshops and work experience
placements, a new writing programme, backstage tours, theatre talks
and Community Plays.
Our ticket prices are consistently among the lowest in the country, and
the Queen’s subsidises the cost of workshop places for children and
adults. In order for the Queen’s to continue its vision of affordable, high
quality theatre and entertainment, we constantly need to raise funds.
be a supporting act
Here are just a few ways you can continue to support the work of
Make a donation !
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To make a donation call 01708 462349 or to donate online visit
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donation means your name and generosity continues to go on, giving
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For more information and other ways you can help the Queen’s Theatre
to thrive, visit www.queens-theatre.co.uk/supportus
REGISTERED CHARITY No. 248680