REVIEW: Around The World in 80 Days (Union Theatre) ★★★

Jules Verne’s classic Around The World In 80 Days bursts to life at The Union Theatre in Phil Willmott and Annemarie Lewis-Thomas’ musical adaptation. After enjoying a very successful run at the Battersea Arts Centre in 2001, this witty musical is back to entertain, delight and wonder.

Freely adapted from the much-loved adventure novel, Around The World in 80 Days delightfully tells the story of Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout as they try to fulfil a wager they can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. With his entire fortune at stake, Phileas risks life and limb to win his bet against his arch nemesis, Captain Fix, who will stop at nothing to thwart Fogg in his adventures. With bandits, nasty villains around every corner, a love story, dancing dragons and transport problems that force them to continue via hot air balloon then by a performing elephant, will they make the deadline?

In this production Sam Peggs plays adventurer Phileas Fogg with Connor Hughes as his valet Passepartout. Jasmin Minjoot is Princess Aouda and Robert Oliver plays the villainous Captin Fix. As Phileas Fogg, Sam Peggs gave a delightful performance and I got the sense he really enjoyed playing the grumpy Phileas. Connor Hughes often stole the show as Passepartout with his beautiful vocal and fun, buoyant performance. Princess Aouda and had one of the best well rounded and thought out character arches in the show and Jasmin Minjoot delivered the character with grace and affection. Robert Oliver as Captain Fix gave a fun performance thwarting our heroes travel attempts at, almost, every turn. Playing many characters including Queen Victoria, a Mormon with many wives, a dancing dragon and Jesse James the ensemble supported the leads perfectly playing each character with zest, dedication and delivering strong vocals throughout the production.

This musical adaption of Around The World in 80 Days was billed as entertainment for the entire family. I found much of show contrary to this claim and I found myself wondering what audience the show was trying to reach. Captain Fix was played as a pantomime villain, while the rest of the cast were a lot more natural. The second scene and song ‘Around The World With Katy’s Girls’ saw the audience transported to a brothel where each girl introduced themselves and what they were ‘good’ at. It was established in this scene that Passepartout had a girlfriend and he intended to propose to her. Later on the dastardly Captain Fix, convinced Passepartout to shoot a sacred cow by what seemed to be coming onto him and a later scene in the second act in an opium den saw Passepartout in what looked like a male orgy. By this stage I had totally forgotten about the characters betrothed. Yes, the show is a lot of camp fun but I’m not overly convinced the entire family would appreciate it’s seemingly out of place sexuality.

For me, this production lacked integrity and went for cheap laughs which often confused the plot. While this production may not have a clear vision of who it’s audience is, Around the World in 80 Days is filled with catchy melodies, cleverly executed staging and a dedicated ensemble. A fun, camp romp around the globe.

Reviewed by Stuart James
Photo: Mark Senior


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