by Laura Eason adapted from the novel by Jules Verne.

New Vic Theatre Etruria Road ST5 0JG To 11 Mat 2013.
Wed-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.15pm.
Audio-described 11 May 2.15pm.
Captioned/Post-show Discussion 8 May.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 01782 717962.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 May.

Theatrical wit and imaginative st0ry-telling that leaves most such attempts standing.
When (as happened, and apparently happens regularly) this show erupts into a standing ovation, it’s a sign of shared experience rather than remote adoration. Sitting round the stage the audience feels connected with the ever-busy actors – especially as archetypal Englishman Phileas Fogg and his French servant Passepartout have their race round the world charted on three world-map sections behind us, each stop-off point flagged in a different manner.

Theresa Heskins’ imaginative production leaves most mini-scale epics at least 79 days behind in invention, inviting us to enjoy athleticism and comedy from a company reflecting the globe round which Fogg assuredly trots. And it wittily dismisses Hollywood’s interference with Jules Verne’s story – a diminutive hot-air balloon is soon rejected and whisked-away.

For all his association with science fiction Verne was preoccupied with advances in technology; putting a girdle round the world in 80 days had just become possible with cross-continental rail-lines. So it’s right that time and how time travels should be crucial, a point Laura Eason’s quick-witted adaptation mentions just enough without over-emphasis.

Among the theatricality that allows actors, luggage and pieces of cloth to create an elephant or snow-sledge among others, or the ever-varying speed of money transfer as Fogg chucks money at problems, and notes seem to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, the human-scale is never lost.

It’s present in his very English decision to save Indian Hamana Aouda from death by suttee (wives were expected to die with their husbands), and the way her presence eventually rescues him from his clockwork-like existence and mentality, though half-a-world together still leaves her having to make a proposal.

In the speeded-up world where Dennis Herdman’s earnestly comical detective pursuing Andrew Pollard’s upright Fogg is repeatedly frustrated and Michael Hugo’s Passepartout is both funny Frenchman and comic centre – his stylised fights with characters at a distance are a joy – the stereotyped foreigners seem excusable.

Rolling ship-decks, bumpy train-rides are taken in their stride by Heskins and her cast. Only Fogg’s victorious return to his club is ill-defined. But, frankly, by then I doubt anyone gave a damn.

Miss Singh (+20 others): Suzanne Ahmet.
Naidu (+ 18 others): Pushpinder Chani.
Baducar (+ 29 others): Okorie Chukwu.
Stuart (+ 27 others): Matt Connor.
Hamana Aouda: Kirsten Foster.
Inspector Fix: Dennis Herdman.
Jean Passepartout: Michael Hugo.
Phileas Fogg: Andrew Pollard.

Director: Theresa Heskins.
Designer: Lis Evans.
Lighting: Alexandra Stafford.
Sound: James Earls -Davis.
Composer: James Atherton.
Movement: Beverly Edmunds.

2013-05-06 00:45:43

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