Review: Around the World in 80 Days @ Lyceum Theatre
As hectic and exhilarating as an 80-day jaunt across the globe should be, Theresa Heskin’s take on the classic Jules Verne story is a fast-paced bag of intercontinental fun.
Setting the scene accordingly, the audience are introduced to a respectable yet wholly unadventurous Phileas Fogg (Andrew Bollard) as he goes about his disciplined daily routine which usually winds down with a spot of cards. It is during one of these evenings at the Reform Club that a disagreement leads him to proffer a £20,000 bet to say he can travel the world and return to the very same spot within 80 days to the minute.
With no time to waste, Fogg employs the assistance of his allegedly world-weary valet, Passpartout (Michael Hugo), to accompany him on a race across eight different countries. But once the two companions vacate Blighty, it doesn’t take long for their meticulously structured plan of action to be thwarted – time and time again and often in some style. The duo are pursued relentlessly by the dastardly Inspector Fix (Dennis Herdman), who is certain that Fogg has robbed the Bank of England prior to his travels; while the daring rescue of love interest Mrs Aouda (Kirsten Foster) manages to derail their progress even further.
The genius of this production is in a shrewd portrayal of the almost perpetual state of motion the characters find themselves in. A relatively simple set of suitcases and other basic materials are transformed to resemble trains, sledges, opium dens – and even an elephant!
There a plenty of laughs, too. A number of simple yet endearing jokes grow in stature as the show continues – namely a brilliant whizzing money trick and the mispronunciation of Passpartout’s name by Fix – but throughout the little Parisian valet is hilarious with his preposterous French accent and bumbling charm.
It could be argued that the running time is a tad long (145 minutes in theatre time) – but then again, theatrically panning the globe in less than 2 and a half hours is almost as difficult as Fogg’s seemingly impossible task. Thankfully, an energetic, well-gelled cast and playful – but wholly inoffensive – portrayals of various corners of the globe ensure that they just about pull it off.