Writer: Jules Verne
Adaptor and Director: Juliet Forster
Roll-up roll-up for this brand new adaptation based on the novel by Jules Verne and adapted and directed by Juliet Forster. This is Around the World In 80 Days as you’ve never seen it before with break-neck stunts, comedy, action and a healthy dose of feminism.
A group of (unrehearsed) travelling circus performers decide to recreate the adventures of Phileas Fogg on his race around the world but there is quickly a debate on why he can’t be played by a woman, which leads to a secondary narrative of the incredible true story of American journalist Nellie Bly who raced around the world and returned home as a feminist icon and heroine.
Drama and hilarity ensue as the two narratives weave through, intersecting each other at perfect moments allowing both characters to shine. Running gags about hot air balloons and physical comedy clowning keep young audiences entertained while older audiences can appreciate the artful storytelling and educational aspects of the performance.
The cast are incredibly versatile, in fact the performance could be called around the world in 80 accents and the cast slip effortlessly into the voice of each country they pass through. Alex Phelps as Phileas Fogg and Katriona Brown as Nellie Bly have a wonderful chemistry on stage and carry the audience with them through the intricate storytelling.
Eddie Mann as Detective Fix plays the perfect villain, never falling too far into pantomime baddy, but keeping the audience in a love/hate relationship as he manipulates each step of the voyage to his own ends.
Sara Perks’ set design gives everything the story needs, full of colour and promise, as the company, under the able direction of Juliet Forster, pull ladders, baskets and paddles away to create everything they need. Trains, boats and even an elephant appear as if from nowhere, and disappear just as quickly.
The first half feels a little lacking in pace, with so much story to tell it sometimes feels a little like the audience is having information thrown at them very quickly in order to move on with the plot. The second half is certainly worth staying for, as it picks up and is much more action packed.
It is a little disappointing that more circus skills aren’t on display. With all the promise of the circus inspired set and characters, the audience is waiting for fire breathers, somersaults and flying. The skills on display, in the form of a clowning troupe, are fantastically funny and clearly athletic but some more death defying stunts would satisfy the audiences appetite.
An entertaining, colourful and lively romp through an old classic that will leave you laughing out loud.
Runs until 8th July.