Review: Around the World in 80 Days

Tilted Wig presents York Theatre Royal’s production of Around the World in 80 Days at the Albany Theatre. This is a retelling of Jules Verne’s classic story with a difference, and tales within tales. Entirely staged by a cast of five, the action opens with a group of circus performers setting out to retell the story of the book and the typically English Phileas Fogg’s epic journey with his faithful assistant Passepartout. Fact and fiction are combined in feminism with the female circus performers insisting that they are given equal parts and that women are more than capable of such a journey. Thus, alongside the story of the book, a parallel real life story is told of American journalist Nellie Bly, who, inspired by the popular account of fictional Fogg, undertook her own journey around the world, completing it in just 72 days.

Ironically, for a story all about racing and speed, the pace is sometimes slightly lacking in the first half, despite a few wry jokes, but things quicken and become more lively after the interval. Highlights include a mini circus show involving clowns and whipping flowers in half- more impressive than it sounds! Also there is some clever staging with a seesaw which is used in several ways, such as representing a boat tipping in a storm and an increasingly inebriated drinking session.

With minimum changes to the set, a rolling banner is used to record the current country the travellers are passing through, giving a sense of progress and a brief snapshot of some of the countries they pass through. Their various modes of transport are cleverly and sometimes wittily conveyed, such as a scooter and ladders for a train, with the passengers assisting in creating the rhythm of the engine. Elephants and ships also feature strongly. The pace gathers on the final stretch to see if Phileas Fogg can make it back to London in time to win his bet without any final mishaps along the way.

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