Manchester Theatre News & Reviews
REVIEW - Around The World in 80 Days delivers in a big way - Big fun. Big smiles. Big personality!BOOK YOUR TICKETS HERE!
On Tuesday, we were invited to The Octagon Bolton to watch Around The World in 80 Days. Read what our reviewer Leanne Parker had to say about this brilliant production...
Take your seats, store your tray tables in their upright positions and buckle up for a thrilling adventure as you are about to be whisked ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ through a kaleidoscope of music, lights, dancing and singing. Based on the novel by Jules Verne (which I will quietly admit, I have never read), this is a fabulous, fun, family oriented musical adaptation by Kate Ferguson and Susannah Pearse in which Phileas Fogg becomes Lady Phileas Fogg, played packed full of personality and gumption by Polly Lister - One Man, Two Guvnors and Hound of the Baskervilles, Octagon Theatre Bolton, The Wizard of Oz, The Worst Witch).
Directed by Olivier Award Nominee Kash Arshad, this super fun adaptation of the classic tale sees Phileas, a wealthy widow accepting an outrageous bet to prove that the English can do it better than the Americans and travel around the world in just 80 days (the American’s did it in 90!). The bet, waged by the husband of her good friend, Lady Eliza Sullivan (Emma Fenney - A Christmas Carol, Antic Disposition, A Midsummer Night’s Dream Live Online Production, Octagon Theatre Bolton and Guildford Shakespeare Company) is one which she, being somewhat discontent with life, having lost her husband and her son and having the heart of adventure beating loudly within her, accepts! Thus, with her fortune on the line, not to mention a point to prove to the smug, snide and condescending Sir Sullivan, off she sets from London, taking us along with her for the thrilling and wild dash across the globe.
Travelling through fascinating and exotic lands, Phileas and friends get into all sorts of adventures. They jump from boats to trains, trek across Europe to Asia, celebrate Diwali in India and soar through the Americas battling storms and gangsters. Will they make it back to London in time for Christmas or will the bet be lost?
Sir John Sullivan (Rob Jackson - Peter Pan, Octagon Theatre Bolton, Brief Encounter, Octagon Theatre Bolton, Stephen Joseph Theatre and Theatre by the Lake) is the instigator of the whole journey and it turns out he is not a very nice or kind fella. Failing in his business and to sell newspapers, he makes the outrageous bet with Lady Phileas, incredulous that a woman has dared to suggest that she could succeed. He, being conniving and just a bit mean, attempts to throw all kinds of obstacles in her path including the lovable, fantastic Khatri, played brilliantly by Darren Kuppan - Let the Right One In, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Jungle Book, Grosvenor Open Air Theatre and Chester Storyhouse, Spooks, Coronation Street, Emmerdale); whose sole job is to delay Philias and prevent her success – something which he fails miserably to do because actually, he is just such a nice guy!
Along the way they meet the plucky Balloonist Felicity Fanshaw (Charlotte Linighan - The Booth Show and Spinach, The Edge Theatre), who comes to their aid in a beautifully staged Hot Air Balloon ride at the top of Act one and into the start of Act two. Throughout the epic journey, Phileas is accompanied by her faithful Butler Passepartout (Kai Spellman - Billie The Kid, Kyriacos & Company and Dominion Theatre, Ali and Dahlia, Pleasance Theatre), who is comical, enthusiastic and utterly adorable but who is also, not entirely as he seems as we later discover!
This extremely clever and versatile cast also play various ensemble roles throughout the evening, switching with ease and professionalism between their various role at an astounding pace. No sooner has a cast member left the stage at one point, they seem to appear out of nowhere from somewhere entirely different. It’s so clever and adds to the enjoyment of this rip-roaring journey we take with them. Completing the cast is Olivia Chandler who will be the company swing, marking her professional debut.
The staging of this production is imaginative, creative, and extraordinarily good. You expect a lot from a show which promises to take you around the World in 80 days, and despite being in the Bolton Octagon, you do genuinely forget that bit and feel that you have been transported, via a ridiculous number of modes of transport I might add, across the globe. So, on this promise, it certainly does deliver.
The music and lyrics, created by Susannah Pearse is completely original and brand new. Pearse is a member of Mercury Musical Developments and a graduate of New York University’s Musical Theatre Writing Programme, and this is not her first collaboration with Kate Ferguson, having previously worked together on Pride and Prejudice (The Forgotten Bennet sister) and Sherlock Holmes (The Early Years). The tunes are enjoyably catchy and the lyrics are quick, witty and convey a lot.
Make no mistake – this may be a small cast performing on a small scale, but this production delivers in a big way. Big fun. Big smiles. Big personality. You can feel the tangible enjoyment of the cast, who are clearly having great fun on the stage and taking us along for the ride. The versatility of the cast, the creative use of space and the light-hearted but clever and amusing script, music and songs are a credit to the entire family production from the inception to final performance and gives us, the audience, two hours of solid entertainment and feel-good fun.
WE SCORE AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS...
Around The World In 80 Days is on at The Octagon Bolton until Saturday 6th January.
Watch our video "In Conversation with Polly Lister", who plays the main character, Lady Phileas Fogg.
To discover more about The Octagon, watch our video "In Conversation with Lotte Wakeham", the artistic director at the venue.
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