Latest Spaceship Away Reveals A Long Forgotten Dan Dare Stage Play

Spaceship Away Issue 42 - Cover

It was long thought that the only time that Eagle’s Dan Dare officially trod the boards of a British theatre was in the 2003’s Dan Dare: The Musical at the Customs House in South Shields. However another, much earlier, play has recently come to light.

In 1972 Dan Dare: A Space Adventure, featuring Alex Leppard as Dan Dare, Mary Sheen as The Mekon and Maurice Colbourne from BBC TV’s Howard’s Way as Sondar, was staged at London’s then new Half Moon Theatre. Officially authorised by IPC, the then Dan Dare copyright owner, the play was written and directed by the Theatre’s co-founder Michael Irving, who also portrayed Spacefleet Controller Sir Hugh (not Hubert Guest, as in the comics) on stage.

A poster for Dan Dare: A Space Adventure. Art by Caroline Struthers

A poster for Dan Dare: A Space Adventure. Art by Caroline Struthers (now Caroline Irving)

downthetubes’ Jeremy Briggs tracked Michael down to ask him about this previously unrecorded piece of Dan Dare and Eagle history (outside of some contemporary reviews and SF zines of the time that mention it, such as Checkpoint, digitally archived on the Ansible web site).

Jeremy’s article on the play, and Michael’s memories of it, are featured in the new issue of Spaceship Away (Issue 42), on sale now.

Alex Leppard as Dan Dare and Michael Colbourne as Sondar in Dan Dare: A Space Adventure. Photo by Ron McCormick

Alex Leppard as Dan Dare and Michael Colbourne as Sondar in Dan Dare: A Space Adventure. Photo by Ron McCormick

The Half Moon Threatre web site has some information on the play here and there are some video interviews with some of the crew included below.

The cast for the show were Alex Leppard (as Dan Dare, who went on to appear in the film The House That Vanished and has enjoyed a TV career that includes roles in Tripods, Bugs, and The Bill), Terrence Dougherty (Digby), Jeffrey Hooper (Hank, an actor, writer and director instrumental in the beginnings of Half Moon Theatre in Alie Street), Maurice Colbourne (Sondar / Treen, co-founder of Half Moon, who went on to appear in TV series such as The Oneidin LineDoctor Who and Van de Valk but died in 1989), Michael Irving (Sir Hugh), Mary Sheen (The Mekon), Nick Oke (Elektrobot), Eddie Selby (Selektrobot) and David Dormand (as the Mekon’s Chair, also a sound designer).

Music for the show was the work of Simon Jeffes, who went on to form the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, who died in 1997, the victim of an inoperable brain tumour; and now record producer Rupert Hine. Could this be the now legendary record producer?

Caroline Struthers, who created the props, costumes and poster for the show went on to marry Michael Irving and is now Caroline Irving.

Jeremy’s article offers a terrific insight into the show although, sadly, we can reveal a script has yet to be found as the Royal Holloway at the University of London, which holds the Half Moon Theatre archive, does not have a copy, and a spokesperson for Half Moon Young People’s Theatre they don’t have a copy in their archives “and the original cast members no longer have copies either, so we’re not aware of one”.

Founded in 1972, Half Moon’s wide-ranging programme today reaches 50,000 people annually and engages those who are often excluded from arts activity. Our activity includes a season of professional plays for young audiences, national touring productions and an extensive creative learning programme, including seven youth theatres.

Also featured in this issue of Spaceship Away, featuring a cover by Don Harley and Bruce Cornwell and a back cover pin-up by Don, are:


Spaceship Away Issue 42 - Dan Dare: Shakedown Cruise by Tim Booth

Dan Dare: Shakedown Cruise Episodes 5 – 8 by Tim Booth

Tim Booth’s new adventures of the original Dan Dare continue, with added Stripey and a feisty relation of Professor Peabody’s!

"Operation Pintos " Part One by Gordon Coombs, art by Harry Winslade

• “Operation Pintos ” Part One by Gordon Coombs, art by Harry Winslade

Presumably from Express Weekly (no source is mentioned), the art by Harry Winslade – profiled here on Bear Alley – is superb.

Spaceship Away Issue 42 - John Russell Fearn's The Golden Amazon

• John Russell Fearn’s The Golden Amazon

Written by Philip Harbottle, with art by Ron Turner, coloured by Martin Baines

• “Davy Rocket”

A one-page, uncredited humour strip

Jet Ace Logan Interceptor. Art © TimeUK

Jet Ace Logan Interceptor. Art © TimeUK


• Jet Ace Logan

Andrew Darlington explores the character’s fascinating history, from Comet to Tiger and Beyond. This is a terrific guide to a character who has been around almost as long as Dan Dare and offers a fascinating insight into his publication history.

• The Delaware – a cutaway by Graham Bleathman

• The History of Early Rockets Part 2

• An introduction to John Russell Fearn’s The Golden Amazon

Written by John himself

• Ron Turner’s Tit-Bits Science Fiction Comics

An excellent guide by Philip Harbottle

Spaceship Away is available to buy on subscription at

• For those of you intrigued by Jeremy Briggs fab article on the 1972 Dan Dare stage play, there’s a feature, including video interviews on the Half Moon Theatre web site here – and here are three video interviews with writer and director Michael Irving, actor Jeffrey Hooper and Mary Sheen, who played The Mekon 

Michael Irving talks about Dan Dare from Half Moon Theatre on Vimeo

Jeffrey Hooper talks about Dan Dare from Half Moon Theatre on Vimeo

Mary Sheen talks about Dan Dare from Half Moon Theatre on Vimeo

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

Categories: British Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 reply


  1. Luck Of The Legion: Selem Raschid’s Return – Another Forgotten Eagle Play –
%d bloggers like this: