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Theatre Review: Around the World in 80 Days

13 July 17 words: Dom Henry

One world, 80 days travel and 125 characters in 130 hilarious minutes

Around the World in 80 days - photo by Andrew Billington

Photo by Andrew Billington

This has been an eagerly anticipated tour, Laura Easton's adaptation of the Jules Verne classic landed much praise for New Vic theatre when it debuted in 2013 and the show is now back with  the original cast.

The tale of upright Victorian gent Phileas Foggs's dash to circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days to win a gentleman's club wager lends superbly to slapstick capers. As the measured man of manners pushes the boundaries of steam travel armed only with a good brolly, a bag full of cash, stoic faith in Bradshaw's book of world timetables and his colourful French valet Passepartout.

It's almost a laugh a mile as the acrobatic cast of 8 improvise a blur of platforms, trains and exotic ports for our duo to journey through. With deftly arranged travel cases and a constant stream of cartoon colonial scenes and characters, awash with bowler hats, turbans, fezs, and pith helmets. Thanks to a simple but clever set and lighting the focus is very much on the imaginative improv style antics which work their illusory magic as we are drawn gleefully into the journey.

There are some excellently choreographed comedy fight scenes, complete with witty martial arts film slow motion sequences, two circus acts and even some magical sleight of money clutching hand which never ceases to entertain during the many times they dish out the pound notes to pay their way.

Photo by Andrew Billington

Fogg's gentlemanly reserve and calm (Andrew Pollard) is perfectly balanced with the lively energy of scrape prone French circus rascal Passepartout (Michael Hugo), as they hit the railways and steamships of empire in their rush Eastward. The task to return to London's Reform Club soon finds itself off the rails as they discovers a major Indian rail route hasn't been finished, plunging them into the jungle on the back of an elephant in first of many trials and tribulatons in the race to secure Fogg's fortune staked on the £20,000 wager.

Passepartout almost steals the show with his cheeky narrative and audience banter, especially trying to outwit interfering Inspector Fix from Scotland Yard (Dennis Herdman) who is convinced Fogg is a bank robber. Verne's satirical comments on colonialism are a bit warmer and fuzzier in this fast paced send up than in the book but there are few telling digs at British rule if you pay close attention.

It's a lovingly executed romp and while preposterous and gloriously silly it doesn't miss out on the romance. Fogg's stiff upper lip thaws in the company of the modest yet charming Indian widow Mrs Aouda (Kirsten Foster) Fogg rescues from a ritual funeral pyre, and by the time the journey concludes it is clear there is more to life for Fogg than timetables and whist.

Millenials who fondly remember the cartoon series should definitely not miss this one. Great fun.

Around the World in 80 Days plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 15 July 2017.

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