We loved the original film of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, a cracking old-style adventure, so were fascinated to see how this could be interpreted on the stage. How could you suggest the actors covering continents by different forms of transport? No need to worry – this was an imaginative take on quick change costumes, scenery, and fast-paced action.
If anyone gets offended at the mere suggestion of stereotypes, remember this is based on the story of Phileas Fogg’s journey in 1872, so the production team were looking for a few cultural references for each country (see their website or the full show programme for more information). The rapid scene changes involved a door that opened every now and then with different fabrics and objects to suggest a country, plus 3 or 4 characters doing a speedy version of a dance from India, jerky Egyptian movement like the old Sand Dance from the 1930s, or whirling acrobatic leaps representing the Arab lands. With just a minute or so to suggest the visual character of different lands, this was easily recognizable by an audience across the age ranges including a large group of 14-year-olds escaping school for the afternoon.
Brilliant use of cases as baggage and seats on trains, short sections of railings to suggest being onboard ship, and the way the characters bounced about in unison or leaned slowly from side to side – as did the table and chair! Great to involve some of the children onstage to keep the chairs swaying.
Characters were excellent and timing superb, especially with “fight” scenes where off-stage noise effects matched the suggested blows even though the fighters were several feet away from each other. Brilliant acrobatic moves by many of them, especially in the circus scene. Both the main characters, Fogg and his manservant Passepartout were perfect for their roles and complemented each other beautifully – everyone should have the services of a Passepartout if undergoing such a round-the-world journey I think!
Altogether, it was one of the best performances we have seen for a long time, very entertaining with lots of laugh out loud moments, and clearly a professional production. If you have a chance to see it, I would definitely recommend it for any age group above primary school. It is in Wales until Saturday 25th November, then continuing its tour until January 20th 2018 visiting Finchley, Salford and Norwich.