I’ve seen some pretty strange shows over the years, but none with as little point as Around The World in 80 Days. The show manically follows a troupe of three actors putting on an adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic book – with constant interruptions from the man himself. Why he happens to be in the audience in the first place (the beginning scene shows him randomly interrupting only to find he recognises the characters of the play) and what his contributions add are left totally unexplained but I feel it completely breaks the pace of what little action there is.
The play within a play is all about Phileas’ Fogg’s journey around the world in just 80 days, with Fix of the Yard following him to arrest him for a crime it turns out he hasn’t actually committed. It’s a pointless plot that doesn’t have any intrigue, action or excitement – it draws no emotion other than arguably a bit of laughter and that’s not enough to make a successful production.
The cast are four incredibly skilled actors but unfortunately this production gives them very little to play with. The characters are farcical but not funny and the only real performance prowess comes from the almighty amount of quick changes and props used which is the main USP of this show.
I might be missing something, but I just don’t understand why the show’s funny or what it offers other than four blokes running around showcasing a variety of different costumes and accents (some not very good ones, too). I wasn’t just bored watching the show, I was frustrated.
To be fair, we were put off from the very beginning as actor Dan Parr (playing Jules Verne) was sitting in the seat in front of us – a little bit of audience participation. Bright ideas like this, presumably from Director Alexander Ferris, are all very well and good when you’re not the audience member who’s got to feel awkward and uncomfortable from the moment you walk in until the moment Parr finally takes to the stage after much leaping around and shouting. I absolutely loathe audience interactions under any circumstance, and I think it’s a presumptuous decision to open a play in this way.
Hats off to set and costume director Amanda Stoodley for her creative ideas and intriguing set – presumably designed in a minimalist manner to enable the show to embark on its community tour without a major redesign. Without the clever costume changes and creative use of props and scene setting, there really would be very little positives to take from the production.
The show runs until 28th April 2019 at Leeds Playhouse.
Photograph credited to David Lindsay