Around the World in 80 Days

Jules Verne. Adapted by Juliet Forster
Tilted Wig: Theatre Royal York
Grand Theatre, Blackpool

Around the World in 80 Days Credit: Anthony Robling
Around the World in 80 Days Credit: Anthony Robling
Around the World in 80 Days Credit: Anthony Robling

Using elements of fringe and physical theatre, a circus setting, and an abundant supply of acting energy, no-one could dispute that this production goes around, and around, in all sorts of ways.

It’s a production that started life as mobile street theatre, touring York, and is a co-production between that city’s Theatre Royal and theatre company Tilted Wig. Now it’s moved ‘indoors’ for a national tour.

Sara Perks’ impressive set design alone comes loaded with promise. A multi-layered climbing frame around a circus Big Top with mini trampolines either side that look set to spring their own surprises.

And Jules Verne’s Victorian novel, about the fictional Phileas Fogg, wagering he can traverse the globe in 80 days, has become a staple of theatres across the country. Juliet Forster adapts and directs this version, but having alighted on its circus styling never really follows through on the requisite level of showmanship.

None of which is the fault of as committed a cast of five as you’re ever likely to find.

Alex Phelps is an elegant Fogg; Wilson Benedito his clownish Passepartout; Eddie Mann a fixated Detective Fix; Genevieve Saberwahl, the Indian widow Aouda; and Katriona Brown, contorting her body as well as her characters!

All are nimble enough to serve up some of the acrobatic skills required, but their script is too wordy for younger audiences, and too lengthy for older attention. A lot more music and movement would have been welcome.

A drunken see-saw routine between two characters at the start of act two is a case in point. It simply tilts too far, even if the ‘pay-off’ is worth the wait.

And introducing real-life Nellie Bly (the American writer who emulated Verne’s story eight years later – shaving nearly eight days off the trip!) becomes a dramatic encumbrance.

There might well be a good one-woman play to be had from her adventures, but not overlaid on the fiction.

Reviewer: David Upton

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