Writer: Jules Verne
Adaptor: Laura Eason
Director: Theresa Heskins
Reviewer: Daryl Holden
125 characters, eight actors, six trains, five boats, four fights and an elephant all to get through in 80 days. Impossible? Not for Phileas Fogg and his trusted valet, Passepartout.
In this truly enjoyable and faithful adaptation, Phileas Fogg (Andrew Pollard) makes an absurd wager of his entire life savings, in a bet that sees him embark on one of the most famous fictional journeys ever told. To circumnavigate the globe in no more than 80 days… Indeed, it’s a story that we all know by now, but the old saying has never been more applicable. It is not about the destination, rather, it is the journey.
The show has no problem with taking the audience along for the ride, and that’s fantastic. At multiple points throughout the show, members of the audience are both conversed with and have songs made about them, as well as asked to join the cast on stage. At no point though, does it feel like the show is picking on its audience. You are made to feel safe on stage. When you get up, the cast’s superb improvisational skills kick in, making you feel not only reassured, but impressed. This is a show where the cast know the piece so well they can afford to take liberties, and more often than not they pull them off spectacularly. They aren’t afraid to break character and laugh, or stray from the script when they feel like improvising, and it’s wonderful. When this crew wants to break the fourth wall, they do it in style.
And it’s the style that makes this show so endearing. Its pantomimic nature keeps everyone happy, But it’s the stylistic choices that keep you impressed. One minute you’re on a ship to Japan, and the next, a train across the Wild West. The shows quick nature can sometimes make you feel your mind is constantly trying to keep up with each new character and location, and its only when you start to get a grasp of this is it ripped away and replaced with something new. However, at the same time, it puts you at equal footing with Fogg, who is most definitely feeling the same way. Fluidity and constant motion are this shows strengths, with only small amounts of props to help set the scene, we are required to fill the missing blanks in with our imagination, which we are more than happy to do considering how much the cast are willing to do for us.
You could easily be forgiven for believing that the company actually has a much larger cast hidden in the wings. With 125 characters’ boots to fill and only eight actors to do it, the abilities of these performers have to be applauded. No two characters are ever the same, which is an accomplishment in itself, but these characters’ span not only different personalities, but different accents, roles and even countries. And while some of them are a lot stronger than others in terms of performance, you still can’t help but be impressed.
The stand out characters of this piece though have to be acknowledged. Phileas Fogg, Passepartout and Inspector Fix, each played by Andrew Pollard, Michael Hugo and Dennis Herdman respectively keep the piece on its feet, with each of their characters having been expertly realised and lovingly portrayed. Special credit is deserved to Hugo’s Passepartout who is a sight to behold both on the stage, and when he leaves it to converse with the audience. His comedic ability, physical skills and sheer talent make him one of the best parts of the show, instantly making any scene he is a part of ten times better.
A truly talented cast and a family-friendly atmosphere set this show apart from everything else. Its genuine hilarity mixed with its surprisingly intricate stylistic choices leave you immersed in this world. You’ve come along with Phileas and his compatriots on this journey, and without a doubt you’ll feel rather sad when it’s over, wishing that those 80 days had lasted just a little while longer.
Runs until 28 October 2017 | Image: Andrew Billington