Around the World in 80 Days

Thu 6th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

William Shaw

at 09:33 on 18th Aug 2015

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Imagine Jules Verne done as a children's panto, with just a dash of Cloud Atlas. Witty, inventive and wonderfully silly, Curious Grin's production is a jolly romp of a show, and an excellent piece of family entertainment.

The style of the play owes a fair amount to Mark Evans, keeping the bare bones of the original plot but throwing most of the details out in favour of slapstick comedy, farcical situations and a conga-line of gags which alternate between grin-inducing and groan-inducing. The cast of eight plays a combined total of thirty-nine characters, and the speed and fluidity of costume changes adds to the sense of a play in constant motion. This play never stays still; the physical comedy is handled beautifully and every line is impeccably timed. The play boasts a number of great set pieces, even managing a couple of legitimately brilliant special effects, which is no mean feat on a student budget.

The cast are also a treat. Pete Sayer's straight man performance as Fogg does an excellent job anchoring the craziness of the show around him, and Ellie Wade is brilliant as the well-meaning but largely clueless Passepartout. Luke Rollason as Detective Fix deserves a special mention, his self-deprecating charm and banter with the audience turning what could have been an unassuming stock role into a highlight of the play. The rest are all fine physical performers, but don't have room to leave much of an impression in a jam-packed production.

If the play has problems, they are largely a result of over-ambition. At an hour and forty minutes this is pretty long for a family show, which is not ideal for easily-bored youngsters. The India section drags a bit, with half a dozen subplots all fighting for attention, meaning the audience is in danger of getting lost. The humour is also perhaps a little too reliant on nods to the audience, and there are moments where the play is too self-aware for its own good.

But these are nit-picks in a show packed with solid entertainment. The play's sense of manic glee is infectious enough for it to get away with most of its flaws. In the end, it's hard to criticise Around the World in 80 Days. It's just too much fun.

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Isabella Goldstein

at 11:10 on 18th Aug 2015

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The Victorian ‘golden age’ of invention is at the centre of Jules Verne‘s eccentric novel Around The World In 80 Days, and this stage adaptation by Curious Grin Productions strikes at the very heart of this spirit of ingenuity. Throughout the show the cast consistently surprise and delight the audience with their ability to find new and captivating ways of staging this complex odyssey. Funny, clever and effortlessly watchable, Around The World In 80 Days is perfect for those searching for a little light-hearted fun at this year’s Fringe.

The play’s comedic success hinges upon its actors’ expert interactions. The cast play out characters who are demanding of each other, and as such work together to push toward the play’s many hilarious climaxes.

The best work occurs in pairs of foils: Pete Sayer’s hopelessly polite and charmingly awkward Phileas Fogg is a wonderful contrast to Clementine Collett’s vivacious and forthright Aouda. Ellie Wade’s Passepartout is a whirlwind of energy. Her pithy asides and lovable slapstick had the audience roaring from the get-go, and her scenes alongside Luke Rollason’s brilliantly pensive and sarcastic Detective Fix are the play’s chief delight. The remainder of the cast showcase great creativity and versatility; slickly navigating a huge host of different characters.

Unusually, the cast are also the most valuable props in this performance. Their near perfect timing and synchronisation thrusts you into a world of terrifying typhoons, rickety rail rides and long, lolloping journeys by elephant. Great attention to detail has been paid to ensure that music, sound effect and movement balance in perfect harmony with one another - bringing the theatrical experience to life.

The whole story is kept in motion by the loud tick-tock of the omnipresent human clock – a nice homage to the time/logic topos which is so royally undermined by Phileas’ mix-up near the play’s end.

The plot is an ambitious one for the stage – attempting to transport the audience through 7 continents and embody 39 separate characters. Whilst this is largely done with skill and grace, there are times where it seems a little too busy, the jungle scene in particular became confusing, almost to the point of being incomprehensible. The time dedicated to setting up the plot in the beginning also meant that the performance had a relatively slow start.

Nonetheless, what Around The World In 80 Days lacked in opening excitement it made up for in spectacular endings. The figure of the miniature air balloon floating off into the distance implores us to remember the message which Aouda has finally succeeded in impressing upon Fogg: whilst the destination is good, the journey is better.

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