Reviewed by Nigel Chester
Around the World in 80 Days is touring the country until January 2018. If you are fortunate enough to have it come to a theatre near you, I would urge you to go and see it – take your family as it’s suitable for all ages.
Jules Verne’s adventure novel was first published in 1873, when travel was opening to the masses in the form of timetabled rail and steamer journeys. Thomas Cook was going beyond Europe “to China via Egypt”. The Suez Canal was newly opened and the British Empire was at its peak. The very idea of being able to travel the whole world at all, let alone in 80 days was the height of modernity. So, with this as our back-drop, we settled down at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, to two and a half hours of pure fun, at times asinine, pantomime and the audience loved it all, we journeyed the entire globe. Our stage set changed little, but we never struggled to know where we were, or how we got there. We travelled on boats and trains and even spent time on an elephant. There are only eight actors in the company but it seemed that we met a hundred or more characters, national costume is a blessing in this performance and the changes were fast paced and breathtaking.
In the opening scene we meet the pedantic Mr Phileas Fogg at his London gentleman’s club, during a lively debate in which he makes a wager that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days. the other members of the club, believing this to be impossible, eagerly accept and with a portmanteau stuffed full of cash, Fogg leaves immediately for Dover, his French valet, Passepartout and the Bradshaw’s guide to rail and steamers, his only companions. This bag of money was almost to be Fogg’s undoing when its origin came into question, however, as an audience, it gave us thrills and spills, as, with amazing sleight of hand, Fogg would pay his way, passing out large white five-pound notes.
Passepartout, whose name was so often mis-pronounced, was played by Michael Hugo and was the undoubted star of the show. Think Charlie Chaplin meets “The Matrix”, and you’re a little way to understanding this stand-out show. Staging, lighting and music collaborated to produce the perfect storm.
In this show, what was quite clear is that the cast were having as much fun as the audience as they improvised, ad-libbed and involved us. It was an evening of pure escapism and I am sure that Laura Eason’s adaptation will be remembered for a long time to come.
For other shows at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk.
Lyceum Theatre, Norfolk St, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 1DA | 0114 249 6000