Friday 20 October 2017

Around the World in 80 Days

The girls and I see quite a bit of children's theatre and we enjoy much of it, but it is rarer to encounter a family show quite so excellently devised and executed as The New Vic Theatre’s celebrated production of Jules Verne’s Around The World in Eighty Days. At our performance children and adults alike became so thoroughly engaged with this interactive show that they chuckled, booed, sang and delivered standing ovations for the brilliant cast. It was a rip-roaring, genuinely funny, adventure with some clever use of props and an exceedingly dextrous set of performers, not least the simply brilliant Michael Hugo as Passepartout. My three year old has been talking about him all day.

This story is known to many of us, possibly through the eyes of the fabulous 1980s cartoon featuring Willy Fogg and his troupe of animated animals marching round the globe to an ear-worm inducing sound track. I've bought the DVD for the girls and we've been indulging together. We also have the Usborne young reading series adaptation, which is abridged in a really accessible way and illustrated throughout. I'm pretty certain my children have learned more world geography from the travels of Fogg than from any other source.

So we begin our journey in Victorian London with the rather OCD but fabulously wealthy Phileas Fogg who spends his days in a well ordered routine of (rather tedious) newspaper-reading and whist-playing opulence. Then in a fit of frivolous abandon, he wagers his life’s fortune on the idea that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days. Passepartout, his talented valet, and Fogg voyage from London through Europe and Egypt, to India and the Far East, and on to the Wild West in a race against the clock. They manage to rescue a princess from the clutches of death along the way, and are chased rather incompetently by an inspector with a poor attention to criminal detail who is convinced that Fogg is fleeing with the spoils of a robbery of the Bank of England. This story has it all.

Reviews note that an ensemble cast of just 8 "play over 125 characters in an imaginative and physically inventive high-spirited escapade including six trains, five boats, four fights, three dances, two circus acts and an elephant!" Performers morph from British to French to Italian and Indian travellers, clearly recognisable through the simple and clever use of props and gestures. They dance and perform acrobatics, transport us on tempestuous seas and through the jungle using simple and effective techniques. The sets are lovely and the joy was contagious. It was obvious that the performers were having quite as much fun with each other as we were watching them. We simply couldn't recommend this one more.

Adapted by Laura Eason and directed by Theresa Heskins, the show first premiered at the New Vic Theatre in 2013 followed by a successful season at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester in 2014. It has been nominated for the UK Theatre Awards ‘Best New Production’ and the Manchester Theatre Awards ‘Best Show for Children and Families’. Whilst the show recommends the performance (probably due to its length and some scenes of jeopardy) to over 7 year olds, my almost four and just six year olds adored it.

Around The World in Eighty Days will be at the Rose Theatre Kingston from Tue 17 Oct – Sun 22 Oct. Tickets cost from £15 and are available online,, by phone, 020 8174 0090, or from the Box Office. It will then be touring other locations around the country - see here for listings.

Disclaimer: We received press tickets in exchange for an honest review from the Rose Theatre in Kingston. All views as always are our own. Covering this show was an absolute pleasure. We are also very grateful to Robert Day who took these excellent photographs and made them available for the purposes of review.

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