Theatre review - Around the World in 80 Days, The Lowry, Salford

PUBLISHED: 13:46 11 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:16 13 December 2017

Passepartout (Michael Hugo) demonstrates his fighting skills. Around The World in 80 days tour.

Passepartout (Michael Hugo) demonstrates his fighting skills. Around The World in 80 days tour.

Archant

A positive romp of ingenious, hilarious story-telling, Around the World in 80 Days is a delight for all the family

Andrew Pollard as Phileas Fogg. Around The World in 80 Days. Andrew Pollard as Phileas Fogg. Around The World in 80 Days.

You know the story – buttoned-up, precise and ordered Phileas Fogg accepts a bet to prove his assertion that the world can be circumnavigated in 80 days and sets off immediately, with his new valet Passepartout, to do just that. You’ve seen the film (probably different iterations too) and may even have read the book – but I can pretty much guarantee that none of the above will have prepared you for the joy of this stage version, which delivers a laugh with every scene and steals the heart from you as you watch.

I took my 11 year old son, who loves a theatre trip even if he doesn’t always follow the story. On this occasion he said: ‘That was brilliant, really funny, although you understood more than me mum because you were laughing when I wasn’t.’

Passepartout (Michael Hugo) and Phileas Fogg (Andrew Pollard) enjoy ice cream in Italy Passepartout (Michael Hugo) and Phileas Fogg (Andrew Pollard) enjoy ice cream in Italy

That, I think, sums up just one element of the cleverness of this production, directed by Theresa Heskins. It works on very many levels but brings the whole audience together at frequent touch points to ensure a collectively happy experience.

There is a cast of just eight incredibly versatile and talented actors playing over 125 characters in this show, with four of those eight in fixed roles. They take our leads from London to Calais, from France to Italy and on to Suez in moments, with minimal props and a simple shrug into a new body shape (oh those slouching beret clad French and the excitable hand-waving Italians) and every new scene is created by people alone and perhaps the occasional suitcase or desk.

Travelling through France. Around the world in 80 days. Travelling through France. Around the world in 80 days.

The programme tells you that this production benefited from movement direction by Beverley Edmunds, which means nothing until you witness just how the physicality of each player moves the story on. They perform the best fight scenes I have ever enjoyed (all done with zero actual body contact), form a realistic elephant, use ‘magic’ to throw money around the stage (my son was fascinated by this and quite sure real magic played a part) and delineate character personalities with ease. Fogg, played by Andrew Pollard, is typically British – an unshakeable calm and a stiff upper lip at all times. In direct contrast, the French valet Passepartout – played to perfection by Michael Hugo – is overflowing with emotion, from joy to panic via bewilderment, excitement, despair, fury, determination and pride and back again, a clown-like figure who steals the show.

Passepartout is an utter joy; how Hugo makes everything seem so easy is just a wonder. He has the fluid physicality of Charlie Chaplin, given a 21st century boost. Prat falls, fight scenes, circus acrobatics, even travelling across the stage on his belly (simply hilarious judging by to my son’s laughter) is done as if it were nothing. He’s just brilliant.

To travel the world in 80 days, via multiple countries, meeting disasters along the way, rescuing fair maidens and avoiding arrest by a police-officer who resorts to increasingly desperate tactics as they go takes just over two hours when done on stage at The Lowry – plus an interval, of course. It’s two hours I could happily repeat and as it’s running in Salford until 7 January 2018, I suggest you make it a two hour segment in your seasonal plans too – it will bring a smile to your face for far longer than that.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS runs at The Lowry until 7 January 2018.

www.thelowry.com/events/around-the-world-in-80-days

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