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Stage Review: Around the World in 80 Days – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

By Ferenc Hepp

Direct from the West End and nominated for both the UK Theatre Awards Best New Production and the Manchester Theatre Awards Best Show for Children and Families, the National tour of Around The World in 80 Days lands at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre this week.

“The world” is depicted, with an ensemble cast of just eight, playing 125 characters between them, encompassing eight countries, six trains, five boats, four fights, a circus and an elephant – all in two and a half hours.

This classic adventure novel was written by Jules Verne and published in 1873 and has received numerous theatre, film, TV and radio adaptations since then. This production is adapted by Laura Eason and directed by Theresa Heskins.

Lis Evans’s design is all about travel and movement. There are maps set as the background, maps on the floor, suitcases used as steps, umbrellas used as railings, and some of the chairs are on wheels.

The stairs lead up to Phileas Fogg’s apartment who seems to be a man of routine, carrying everything out with “mathematical precision” and with not much social life, apart from being a member of the Reform Club. That is where the £20,000 wager occurs about being able to travel around the world and where the adventure starts in October 1872, to return exactly 80 days later in order to win the money.

Andrew Pollard looks very much the part as Fogg. He has presence; in command as the character, in command of the stage.

Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout in Around the World in 80 Days

There is not quite enough space to list all the characters played by the excellent ensemble, however, Michael Hugo deserves a special mention for his portrayal of Fogg’s valet, Passepartout. His energy is infectious. He is not only required to give a hugely physical performance, he also has to encourage plenty of interaction with the audience. His ad-lib lines, cheeky sense of humour and banter works brilliantly for all ages.

In fact, physicality and movement have a significant part to play in this production and Beverley Norris Edmunds as the movement director incorporates some genius touches with this highly skilled cast throughout.

It may appear chaotic, but in fact, it takes precision and perfect timing to achieve what we see on the stage.

Audience participation is required not only to boo the stories villain, Inspector Fix played by Dennis Herdman, and to join in the singing. We could have been in the middle of a pantomime but this works very well, thanks to Heskins’s direction.

The style of Eason’s adaptation and the silly humour reminded me of another hit show, The 39 Steps.

If you fancy joining in this funny, fast-paced adventure and possibly even ending up on stage to help with one of the scenes, I would highly recommend getting yourself a ticket. With an earlier starting time of 7pm in the evenings, this can also be enjoyed by the whole family including the younger generation.

Around The World in 80 Days runs until Saturday, November 4 (2017) and tickets are available via the website: www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk or by calling the box office on: 01483 440000.

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One Response to Stage Review: Around the World in 80 Days – Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

  1. Dennis Harvey-Hepherd Reply

    November 1, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I saw this production when it first opened in London. It was fantastic then and I am very happy to know the touring production has lost nothing.

    Dennis Harvey-Hepherd is The Guildford Dragon’s film reviewer.

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