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Phileas Fogg meets his match as he goes round the world in 80 days

Genevieve-Sabherwal-Eddie-Mann-and-Katriona-Brown. Photo-credit_-Anthony-Robling

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, adapted and directed by Juliet Forster, and presented by Tilted Wig. At the Albany Theatre, Coventry, from Tuesday 30 May to Saturday 3 June.

Review by Ann Evans.

We were forewarned that this production of the Jules Verne classic was going to be unlike any other stage adaptation we’re likely to see, which was true enough. And hats off to Juliet Forster for tackling the merging of Jules Verne’s fictional story and the true story of American journalist Nellie Bly who in 1890 set out on a solo trip around the world to see if it could be achieved in 80 days. Amazingly Nellie Bly succeeded – quite an achievement for a woman in a man’s world at that period of history. She went around the world in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes.

Another major switch in the story is the circus theme. The main set is very much like a colourful circus tent, and it’s a very robust setting, serving the entire performance well with it’s simplicity of a balcony, a doorway and a couple of ladders. This and a few additional props of more ladders, and a see-saw type plank, served as many different modes of transport as the cast travelled across continents and oceans, weathered storms, tackled the wild western railroads and even travelled by elephant across India.

There are just five people in the cast, who all throw themselves into the story with massive enthusiasm, taking on additional character roles as the story demands. Alex Phelps plays the ringmaster Phileas Fogg who wages a small fortune with the stuffy gentlemen of his London club that he can go around the world in 80 days. Katriona Brown takes the role of Nellie Bly, and a circus performer – a woman with certain unexpected talents which we see in the circus scene of act two.

Alex Phelps, Genevieve-Sabherwal and Eddie Mann. Photo credit, Anthony Robling.

Wilson Benedito plays Passepartout, giving the character a humorous French clown personality, to the point of being reminiscent of a French mime artist. Eddie Mann takes on a number of roles, the main one being Detective Fix who is after Phileas Fogg believing him to have robbed a bank before setting out on his quest to circumnavigate the globe. Like with Benedito, Eddie Mann also throws himself into the characters with tremendous gusto. Genevieve Sabherwal plays Aouda and a circus performer who Phileas Fogg eventually marries.

The show is certainly colourful but in my mind was ambiguous with regard to who it was aimed at. The deliberate over-the-top acting indicated its target audience was young children. But act one was packed with dialogue – delivered at quite a pace which was too complicated for that age group to comprehend. And while the adult audience could follow the storyline, the action on stage was clearly meant for little ones. So, I felt that both the adults and the kids were left a little disappointed but for two different reasons. Nevertheless, a colourful and energetic performance.


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