On the loss of Coventry writer and director Bob Carlton

Posted on 22 January 2018

On Friday 19 January, we received the sad news that Coventry writer and director Bob Carlton had died at the age of 67. Best known for his award-winning jukebox musical Return to the Forbidden Planet, Bob trained as a director at the Belgrade in the early 1970s, and will be sadly missed by many in the city.

After graduating with a degree in Drama from the University of Hull, Bob returned to his Coventry hometown, receiving an Arts Council bursary to complete a traineeship at the Belgrade Theatre. Over the next few years, he would go on to serve as Associate Director at both the Duke’s Playhouse and York Theatre Royal, before his appointment as Artistic Director of the London Bubble Theatre Company in 1980 – known for their open-air performances a big top style tent.

It was during his time with Bubble Theatre that Bob began work on what was to be his most famous creation,_ Return to the Forbidden Planet_, which premiered at the Belgrade in the early 80s. Featuring a soundtrack of 1950s and 1960s rock ‘n’ roll hits, the show was inspired by the 1956 cult classic science-fiction film Forbidden Planet, itself loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Following runs at the Liverpool Everyman and London’s Tricycle Theatre, the show would go on to play in the West End Cambridge Theatre, where it won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 1989.

Other notable stage credits include the Macbeth-inspired musical From a Jack to a King, which also had its first outing at the Belgrade, and Keep On Running, a rock ‘n’ roll reimagining of Bizet’s Carmen, which enjoyed a run at Birmingham REP in the 90s.

As well as developing a reputation for his lively reimaginings of the works of Shakespeare and other classic plays, Bob also worked in television, serving as Staff Director on Brookside for two and a half years, as well as directing the spinoff miniseries Damon and Debbie. In 1997, he would eventually settle in the role of Artistic Director at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, where he remained for 17 years until 2014.

Belgrade Theatre Artistic Director Hamish Glen said: “We were sorry to hear the news about Bob Carlton last week. Bob’s work played an important part in the history of the Belgrade and in the cultural life of Coventry, as well as winning him recognition on national and international stages. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”