Writer: Jules Verne
Adaptor: Laura Eason
Director: Theresa Heskins
Reviewer: Lu Greer
How do you take the story of a rich man making a bet, and produce something interesting? You create all 125 characters using only 8 actors and throw in trains, boats, fights, dances, circus acts, and an elephant for good measure. The play tells the infamous story of Phileas Fogg, who wagers his life savings on his ability to circumnavigate the world in 80 days or less, and sees him journey his way across continents with his companion Passepartout at his side.
From entering the theatre, the stage design makes a statement about the show (Lis Evans). The suitcases piled high to create a staircase, the cartographers’ map, and the insistent tick ticking of the clock create a sense of precision and order which is soon reaffirmed as the audience is introduced to Phileas Fogg (Andrew Pollard). Fogg’s mathematical precision is present is everything from his movement to his repetitions, and the rest of the cast join in this meticulousness effortlessly. Fogg quickly gets himself into trouble with an absurd bet, and the audience finds themselves leaving Waterloo and flying around the world before they can find their feet – much like Fogg himself. In his role as Fogg, Pollard balances charisma with a mechanical accuracy which creates a character who, at times, is surprisingly endearing.
Unfortunately, the clockwork nature at times works against the show, as it begins to feel formulaic in parts, particularly towards the end of the first act. The repetitive feeling isn’t helped by the many moments of physical comedy seen many times before in other, more slick, shows. The saving grace here, however, is surely Michael Hugo as Fogg’s valet Passepartout. Hugo smooths out some of the clockwork running of Fogg with his own endearing naivety, creating a double act who bounce off each other more and more successfully as the show progresses.
The most original and compelling aspect of this show must surely be the sets. With suitcases becoming everything from a way of hiding props to an actual train, they add to both the calculated manner of the directing and the manic energy of the characters. While it is entertaining to see what else the performers can turn their props into, it is easy on many occasions to forget that you are not really watching a boat on the water, swaying in a storm.
This show is, perhaps, not going to light up the world. It offers little that hasn’t been done before, and better, by its peers and at points loses itself a little. That being said, however, in many places it is smooth, funny, and has a genuine heart to it. And if nothing else, it’s certainly worth going to, just to see an elephant grace the stage.
Runs Until: 20th of January, 2018 | Image: Andrew Billington