REVIEW: Around the World in 80 Days (Cadogan Hall) ★★★★★

Around the World in 80 Days, a tale originally published by Jules Verne all the way back in 1873, is a thrilling adventure story packed with nostalgia, intrigue and tremendous excitement that still has a profound impact on all ages today. Adapted for the stage by Laura Eason, the show is touring the UK extensively for the rest of this year.

Phileas Fogg is a meticulous gentleman living in Victorian England who brazenly accepts a challenge that he can travel around the world in…you guessed it…80 days! With his doorstop-sized book detailing every steam train and boat departing across the world, he sets off with his valet to complete his mission. If all goes smoothly, he’ll be back to win the wager on time – but the journey turns into an adventure of twists and turns unlike anything he could have expected.

This adaptation is extremely faithful to the original text, and fabulously witty. Director Theresa Heskins reportedly encouraged the entire cast and creative team to explore all avenues whilst building Phileas Fogg’s world, pouring imagination and innovation into everything from set design to movement to sound effects. This production truly felt as though every detail had been considered, with no half measures. The fight scenes, aside from being very comedic, were excellently choreographed to cover the entire stage and felt wholeheartedly energetic. Encouraging the audience to use their imaginations with certain scenes, such as bringing to life an enormous elephant with just a piece of cloth, and embodying a super-fast sledge journey with twists and turns without moving across the stage at all, was a stroke of genius – less can truly be more, and this production proves that extravagant props are not necessary to effectively bring larger concepts to life.

An excellent cast that is ethnically diverse and multi-talented, there was a huge variety of accents, languages and skills, particularly the athletic abilities of several of the actors – this was a very physically demanding performance, requiring backflips, fight scenes, and simulating ‘travelling’ of all kinds, so a physically fit set of performers is essential. Particular praise must go to Michael Hugo, who played Passepartout, Fogg’s loyal valet; his take on this character was nothing short of infectious, bringing an undeniable sense of fun to the entire show. Music and sound effects are a key feature in any adventure story, so I also commend composer James Atherton on creating such a thrilling and atmospheric accompaniment to the action.

’80 Days’ is abundant in culture and history, making it a feast for the eyes, ears and brain. All ages will enjoy this rendition of the classic, much-loved tale of cultural diversity, exploration and learning to live outside of one’s comfort zone. I left with a big smile on my face, and a standing ovation doesnt lie. I’d go see this again.

Reviewed by Laura Evans
Photo: Andrew Billington