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Around the World in 80 Days: Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Reviewer: Matt Forrest

Writer: Jules Verne

Book Adaptor: Kate Ferguson

Music and lyrics: Susannah Pearse

Director: Kash Arshad

The Octagon Theatre has come up with something a little different this holiday season, out goes the traditional panto and in comes a brand new retelling of Jules Verne’s classic Around the World in 80 Days, from director Kash Arshad that offers a great deal of fun and adventure for the whole family to enjoy.

Writers Kate Ferguson and Susannah Pearse have made some bold plot choices for this retelling, shifting the action to 1923, with the world still reeling from the effects of World War One. Lady Phileas Fogg, (Polly Lister), a widow in her 40s devastated by the loss of both her husband and son in quick succession, is in need of some adventure.

Lady Phileas learns of a challenge thrown down by her friend, Lady Eliza Sullivan’s (Emma Fenny) husband, the newspaper proprietor Sir John Sullivan (Robert Jackson), that only an English man would be able to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. When no man steps forward, up steps Lady Phileas, who accepts the challenge and makes a £50,000 wager to boot.

So the intrepid adventurer begins her long journey. Accompanied by her trusted butler, Passepartout (Kai Spellman) the pair set off for France. Hot on their heels is Sir John’s hired saboteur, Amit Khatri (Darren Kuppan) , an ambitious journalist who is not entirely comfortable with his new role. As Phileas and Passepartout continue on their quest, they meet a whole host of quirky characters including hot air balloon enthusiast Felicity Fanshaw (Charlotte Linighan). However, for every spot of good fortune the duo encounter, they also seem to get hit by some terrible bad luck as well. Will they complete their task and will Lady Fogg win her wager?

From the start to finish there is so much to admire about this show. A smart script with some great gags; in the firing line are potshots at Britain’s decaying train network and our troubled history and controversies at the British Museum. There are key messages about tolerance, forgiveness and friendship at the heart of the production. A sequence explaining Diwali is beautifully staged and magically sees one cast member turn it into an elephant.

The cast are in fine form: Polly Lister puts in a gentle yet determined turn as Lady Fogg. Kai Spellman and his outrageous French accent is equally impressive as her loyal servant and friend. Whilst Darren Kuppan is an engaging watch as the conflicted writer. The remaining

cast play a multitude of different characters, which include a Hollywood film star, American mobsters, and inept jailers. The show is punctured with some wonderful moments of physical comedy in which all the cast rise to the challenge, as well as the introduction of some absurd OTT characters which hold a lot of fun.

Around the World in 80 Days has something for everyone – silly gags, smart jokes, numerous musical numbers, a spot of audience participation (you can’t have a Christmas show without the audience taking part now can we?). The show’s main charm is its heart, soul and important messages about seizing the day and friendship. This is a fun, entertaining show performed superbly by a hard-working cast, that all the family will enjoy and is well worth a trip to the theatre.

Around the World in 80 Day is at the Bolton Octagon until the 6th January.

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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