Writer: Jules Verne
Adaptor: Laura Eason
Director: Theresa Heskins
Reviewer: Sam Lowe
All eight actors play over 125 characters. No easy task. Around the World in 80 Days is a fast-paced production, based on the classic adventure novel by the French writer Jules Verne. This production has a Christmas residency at The Lowry as part of an adventurous sixth month UK tour.
The ambitious and wealthy Phileas Fogg bets his life fortune that he can circumnavigate around the world in 80 days. With the help of his valet Passepartout, they travel around the globe, from the smog of Victorian London to the exotic and sunny subcontinent. Always aware of time slipping away.
The sound of a ticking clock lures the audience into the year of 1872. A time of pocket watches, Victorian suits, and dresses. The costumes, depicting the various types of characters, are beautifully designed by Lis Evans. When it comes to her set design, simplicity is key, in order to deal with the gigantic task of portraying the whole world onstage. Suitcases are used in a variety of ways, from storing props to constructing a train and a ship. There is even a suitcase staircase in Fogg’s house, which is a delightful play on words. An enormous world map provides the backdrop to the set and is a constant reminder of Fogg’s ultimate challenge.
Heskins’ direction places physical theatre at the forefront to tell the story. The movement is choreographed by Beverley Norris Edmunds and the result is fun, impressive, and mathematically precise. Clearly taking inspiration from Fogg’s line, “Everything will be arranged with mathematical precision”. Also, the transitions between each chapter of the story are executed smoothly. The only device that does not work is the use of slow-motion movement, to mark moments in the story. It is often used in theatre presently and is starting to feel cliché and predictable. Much of the first act feels quite flat, it is only when the production begins to play with the movement and props that the humour and energy begins to build. The meta-theatrical acknowledgement that they are playing is joyous, it enhances the storytelling and theatricality of the production.
Fogg played by Andrew Pollard, excellently teases out his cleverness and sophistication. The multi-talented Michael Hugo as Passepartout – is hilariously called many names in the show. This role really shows off his capabilities as an actor and his improvisation with the audience is particularly impressive. The rest of the ensemble maintain the energy and give strong performances, constantly changing characters in the story. Sound by James Earls-Davis highlights the storytelling of the show greatly.
This show gives the audience a whirlwind tour of the world, which is both educative and entertaining. There is something for all ages to enjoy in this production.
Runs until 7th January 2018. | Image: Andrew Billington