Around The World in 80 Days is one of those plays that I will say is a must see. It was my first time watching it and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the performance.
Based on Jules Verne’s book of the same title, it sees our hero, Phileas Fogg (Andrew Pollard), attempt to circumnavigate the globe in no more than eighty days (ne pas merde, Monsieur Sherlock) in order to win a bet made with peers at The Reform Club. With a wager of twenty thousand English pounds, he sets of, initially, with his trusted manservant, Passepartout (Michael Hugo), on his great adventure around…the, you know where this is going, World. Throughout their escapades they meet a multitude of different, and interesting, folk. One hundred and twenty-three, to be precise, so including Mr Fogg and his companion, that’s one hundred and twenty-five characters played by ten actors.
Travelling across eight countries, on six trains, five boats, and an elephant was all done beautifully with minimum of props, but with maximum imagination. There were no set changes, and each scene flowed seamlessly into the next. Visual representations of different modes of transport were created using either suitcases, or a few small white picket fences. Fight scenes resembling something from The Matrix done in slow motion, choreographed with sound effects that you might hear in old Kung Fu movies. A chase scene reminiscent of a comedy silent film from the 1920s. It was all done in a spectacularly hilarious way.
The star of the show, without a doubt, was Hugo’s Passepartout. The way the fourth wall was not only broken by him, but passed between with audience participation, made the experience so much more personal. Although obviously scripted, it gave it a slight air of pantomime, but not too much, and felt original to the performance I was watching that evening. Almost like Fawlty Towers’ Manuel, but not so dopey, quite the opposite in fact, a rather intelligent yet innocent naivety and wonder of the world. He had me, and the audience, in stitches. The second act seemed to be a whirlwind parsnip soup, petit mange tout, Passepartout, comedy gold. He’s not bad on a trampoline, either. Everybody involved has done a marvellous job, though.
As I said at the beginning, it’s a must see. It’s something that you can take the whole family out to enjoy. Funny, really funny, and very entertaining from the get go. Spend a couple of hours globetrotting with Mr Fogg, you won’t regret it.
Showing until Saturday 15th July at Theatre Royal, more info and tickets here.
Review by Johnny Banks