Theatre Review: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS – The Lowry, Salford

Fast-paced, clever and incredibly inventive, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS brings Jules Verne’s classic novel to life on stage

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 heads to The Lowry for a four week run over the Christmas period.

Based on the 1873 novel by Jules Verne, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS tells the story of Phileas Fogg, a mysterious and wealthy Englishman who wagers his life’s fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days. Setting out with his loyal valet Passepartout, Fogg races across the globe, from the misty alleys of Victorian London to the exotic subcontinent in a race against the clock, discovering the world and his heart along the way.

Fast-paced, clever and incredibly inventive, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS brings the adventure, magic and humour of Verne’s classic novel to life. With a minimal set and a cast of just eight playing over 125 characters, Heskins and adaptor Laura Eason use every resource at their disposal to bring this story to life, including props, costumes, accents and even a little bit of magic.
Baguettes and berets in France are swapped for Venetian gondolier’s hats and gelato in Italy and suitcases, trunks and physical movements are used to indicate travel by boat or on a train. Even the audience are asked to join in, as occupants of the front row aid the effect of chairs rocking on a steamer’s deck.

Cast of Around The World in 80 Days

Alongside other cast members who appeared in the 2013 and 2014 productions, Andrew Pollard reprises his role as the stiff upper-lipped Fogg, delivering a solid performance of the abrupt yet chivalrous gentleman. Kirsten Foster is equally delightful as the lively and charming Mrs Aouda who falls in love with Fogg as they travel across the globe, as is Dennis Herdman as the pantomime villain Inspector Fix.

But the stand out performer is Michael Hugo as Passepartout, Fogg’s lovable, accident-prone companion. Rolling about the floor – at one point being dragged along the stage by an audience member – Hugo is the comic heart of the show, delivering a fun, silly and engaging performance that makes the entire audience feel involved.

With a running time of two and half hours (including an interval), the action and energy is kept high for most of the performance although there is a bit of padding just after the interval. That said, you can’t fail to be impressed by the clockwork timing and witty movement of the cast, particularly during the fight scenes and the repeated ‘throwing’ and instant ‘catching’ of bank notes.

Whether you’re a fan of Verne’s book or not, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS is sure to leave a smile on your face. An ensemble piece of imaginative theatre suitable for all the family.

4 out of 5 stars

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS runs at The Lowry until 7 January 2018.