Writer: Jules Verne
Adaptor: Laura Eason
Director: Theresa Heskins
Reviewer: Tate James
With mathematical precision, Phileas Fogg winds his way about the world, hopping from train to boat to elephant in Jules Verne’s 1873 novel; and it is with the same mathematical precision that this exceptional adaptation by Laura Eason bounds across the stage, dragging its willing audience across continents with it.
Family theatre has never been finer than in this effortless production of Around the World in 80 Days. Lis Evans’ simple but strategic design, involving suitcases, umbrellas and an array of costumes too many to count, transport both those on stage and off from the docks of Dover to the decks of tankers and even the deserts of India. With skill and pace, Theresa Heskins directs her band of travellers and navigates the impeccable cast through the many exciting locations with a mix of dialogue, physical theatre, clowning, dance and even audience participation. The synergy between direction and movement (by Beverley Norris-Edmunds) is so apparent that it is difficult to pinpoint quite when dialogue stops and choreography begins, such is the accuracy with which the action is delivered.
It is only in seeing a piece of this quality that one realises the phrase “ensemble piece” is bandied about all too easily, as this is truly a show worthy of the title. Whilst Andrew Pollard’s organised and exacting Philes Fogg is a confident tour guide through the journey and Michael Hugo’s perfect Passepartout is a balance of comedy and consequence which keeps the child in all of us laughing and loving throughout, it is unfair to claim the show belongs to just its leading players. This is a show owned by eight, delivered by eight and executed with hilarious precision by eight brilliant performers, who each in their own role guides the ship safely home.
In a world of Iggle Piggle, Elsa and Ana, it is all too easy to entertain a family by patronising the younger members with colours and pretty dancing, but this production had its many younger audience members giggling with glee by setting an intelligent bar and affording those watching the chance to rise to it. You don’t have to travel round the world to find enjoyment when an Easter Treat of this quality is on offer at the Playhouse. Definitely worth the trip!
Runs until 20 April 2019| Image: Andrew Billington