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A classic tale

Head Around The World in 80 Days in this clever and fabulously funny adaptation of Jules Verne's classic at Yvonne Arnaud.

There are a couple of things to tell you about this production of the Jules Verne classic that you might not be expecting.

One. It’s very funny. As in, laugh-out-loud funny. For some reason, I expected fun. But not this level of funny.

And two. It’s not a play that’s made specifically for families and children. I wasn’t expecting this, as the marketing seemed pitched to families and kids. But that’s not to say that kids won’t enjoy the show – they most certainly will, and the small number of kids who were at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre last night certainly did. I took my teenage son, and he thought it was great.

No doubt you know the storyline, but in case you’ve never read the book – shamefully, I haven’t – it follows the adventures of Phileas Fogg, a rich English gentleman, and his newly employed French valet Passepartout, as they attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days after Fogg makes a £20,000 wager with the other members at his gentlemen’s club. It’s set in the late 1800s.

This version sees Fogg and Passepartout venture to eight countries boarding six trains and five steamer ships along the way. As plans go awry, they’re forced to travel by other means too – including a rather clever scene involving an elephant.

The play has been artfully adapted to the stage by Laura Eason, and directed by Theresa Heskins. There are just eight actors who share in the roles of the 125 different characters.

Michael Hugo undoubtedly steals the show as Passepartout – ad-libbing with brilliance and hilarity. Unexpectedly, there was also a little audience participation. This sort of thing usually sends shivers up my spine, for the dual reasons of desperately personally not wanting to be singled out and because often it just seems to be a bit naff. For some reason though, it really worked in this show.

Andrew Pollard plays the English gent with panache. And the whole ensemble cast is brilliant, incredibly versatile and utterly convincing – slipping into and out of different accents and languages with ease, and adopting the different personas of so many characters with no difficulty, including a scene where they are frolicking around as circus performers.

Special mention must go to the brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, and also the the very clever staging. Little more than travelling trunks were used and yet I was never confused about which country we were in, nor which mode of transport had taken us there.

This is a fabulously funny show and I think most ages would love it. It’s full of fun and mischief… and a guarantee you’ll leave with a smile on your face.

Around The World in 80 Days is at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guilford until Sat 4 Nov.



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