Kirsten Foster talks to Frankly My Dear UK about reprising her role as Mrs Aouda in AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Following its premiere at the New Vic Theatre in 2013 and a successful season at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in 2014, Theresa Heskins’ production of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS finally heads to The Lowry next month as part of its first national tour.
Based on the 1873 novel by Jules Verne, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS tells the story of Phileas Fogg, an ever-so-slightly stuffy Englishman who wagers his life’s fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in just eighty days. Setting out with his wily travelling companion lieutenant Passepartout, Fogg races across the globe jumping from train to boat to elephant and back again, to discover the world and his heart along the way.
Joining original cast members Andrew Pollard as Phileas Fogg and Michael Hugo as Passepartout on the national tour is Kirsten Foster who reprises her role as Mrs Aouda, an Indian-European princess rescued by Fogg and Passepartout on their travels.
Ahead of its four week run at The Lowry next month, Frankly My Dear UK caught up with Foster to find out about life on the road and how this incredible tale of adventure has been brought to life on stage.
Frankly My Dear UK (FMD): AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS made its premiere back in 2013 but for those who may not have seen the show, can you start by telling us a little bit about the story and what audiences can expect from the production?
Kirsten Foster (KF): AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS is a novel by Jules Verne. It’s set in 1872 and it centres on an English aristocratic man called Phileas Fogg. Fogg is a very mysterious, wealthy man. No one knows much about him but basically he’s quite isolated and he likes to keep himself to himself. Every day he goes to the reform club to play card games with his gentleman friends and while he is there one day, they are talking about how the world is getting smaller and how you’re able to travel around it much easier. They end up making a bet where Phileas believes he can get around the world in 80 days and for a man who has never left London, that’s quite a big statement. It’s such a beautiful story. He goes on all these adventures around the world, he makes friends, he falls in love and he just finds himself.
FMD: The story of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS is quite a visual one and the characters literally going on an adventure around the world. How has the story been adapted for the stage?
KF: We basically had a lot of fun in the rehearsal room and use a lot of props, our bodies and accents to try and get us around the world in two and half hours. In the rehearsal room, there are trunks, suitcases, hats, wigs and different costumes from around the world. The other thing we use is our bodies, we use a lot of physicality. We talked a lot in rehearsals about how to use our bodies to create boats, for example. Its very ensemble based because we constantly have to keep an eye on each other to see what each other is doing.
FMD: It certainly sounds like a creative production and one in which you almost ask the audience to use their own imagination?
KF: Absolutely. We kind of lay bare the theatricality so it’s very open to interpretation and we ask the audience to come on the journey with us using their imaginations completely. I always like to say that the audience are always the last cast member to join because they bring with them their own energy and their own kind of willingness to get involved. It’s very much a story in which they have to use their imagination. What I love is that I pick out a member of the audience to see their reaction. There was this seven year old boy sat next to his granny who was around 70 and they were both just enthralled by it and so involved with it. It’s not just for kids. It’s one of those shows that is for everyone because everyone wants to go on an adventure, everyone wants to go around the world and explore. We all have an explorer inside of us so that’s why it’s such a great story for all of the family.
FMD: You are reprising your role as Mrs Auoda in the show. How would you describe the character and why do you enjoy playing her?
KF: Mrs Auoda is a stereotypical damsel in distress. Fogg finds her in India and they rescue her, Fogg and his valet Passepartout. The first thing you see in her is that she needs to be rescued but as the story progresses she’s actually an incredibly strong woman, she makes choices for herself. What’s also wonderful about her as well is sees the world kind of through child-like, rose tinted glasses which is so different to Fogg. Phileas Fogg is very stiff upper lip, very meticulous and very logical and she is just the complete opposite, she’s very poetical and sees the world as beautiful and wants to share that with him. That’s why I’m drawn to her because she sees the beauty and the chaos of the world.
FMD: It must be difficult keeping the energy up night after night. How do you keep the character fresh?
KF: Obviously, the audience and how they react helps but it’s definitely a challenge. Any actor will tell you it is a challenge to keep it fresh every single night, especially as we’ve been on the road since July so it’s a long job. I’ve never done anything this long, the last job I had was in rep so I had two shows going at the same time so that was kind of easier to keep things fresh because you weren’t doing the same show every night, you were going back to something. With this, I think it’s about the fact that we all get on really well as a company and that actually informs how much fun we can and how much we can bring to the characters. You start to trust each other even more than you did in the beginning and that brings new things. Everyone says the best actors are ‘in the moment’ and that’s how you keep it fresh, you find new ways on stage to keep yourself in the moment, to listen to each other and to work together on stage. Because we get on so well, it’s just a joy to do it every single night. I don’t want it to end.
FMD: You’re part of a cast of eight who between you, play an impressive 125 characters. How many parts do you play?
KF: It’s mad. I play two characters officially but actually I play quite a few others. The other thing is that, we’re just constantly changing costume. There’s quick changes going backstage, there’s different props coming onto the stage, so not only a play going on stage but backstage is quite the drama as well. It’s just mad backstage. People are throwing a fess off and putting an Italian hat on, someone has a beret on, it’s crazy but we manage to do it and it’s so much fun to do. You basically get to play lots of different characters which, for an actor, is so much joy because you’re not just playing one thing throughout.
FMD: Jules Verne’s book was published almost 150 years ago but it continues to capture the public’s imagination. Why do you think the story remains so popular?
KF: For me, I think that it’s the adventure. I think that we, as humans, sometimes get a bit scared of change and a bit scared of going out of our comfort zone and so to see, read and watch someone who is so sheltered find himself by going on this crazy adventure around the world, that’s why it’s so appealing because we all feel that. We all feel that sometimes we can get a little bogged down into our routine, our 9 to 5 job and the uncertainty of the adventure and the fact that he finds himself on the adventure, we can all relate to that. We all want that deep down.
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS runs at The Lowry from 5 December to 7 January 2018.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.