Review by Hilary Dawes
The classic Jules Verne novel has been skilfully adapted by Kate Ferguson and Susannah Pearse, bringing us this sensational new musical stage production, directed by Kash Arshad.
This fresh take on the novel moves the action to 1923, and Phileas Fogg is portrayed as wealthy and eccentric entrepreneur Lady Phileas, determined to prove herself, despite the derision of many of the male members of her society. She takes up a bet with newspaper magnate and Reform Club member Sir John Sullivan that she can travel around the world in just 80 days. With her entire fortune at stake, Phileas sets off from London with her devoted butler Passepartout in a wild dash across the globe. Determined she won’t succeed, Sullivan despatches a spy to impede Phileas’s progress and prevent her from winning the bet.
As the travellers jump from boats to trains, trek across Europe to Asia, celebrate Diwali in India and soar through the Americas battling storms and bandits, their efforts are thwarted many times through natural disasters and human interventions. Will they make it back to London in time for Christmas or will the bet be lost?
The whole cast were outstanding, with brilliant performances from Polly Lister as the resolute and at times vulnerable Lady Phileas Fogg, and the excellent Kai Spellman providing many comic moments as the loyal Passepartout, with his exaggerated French accent and tricolour costume.
Sir John Sullivan’s spy, Amit Khatri, was beautifully played by Darren Kuppan, and we felt for him as his friendship with Phileas grew and he wrestled with his conscience to do the right thing.
There were remarkable performances from the remaining talented cast members, with Robert Jackson as pompous Sir John Sullivan, Emma Fenney as his feisty wife Lady Eliza and Charlotte Linighan as hot air balloon enthusiast Felicity Fanshaw. Between them they also managed to portray an astonishing multitude of characters, including a Hollywood film star, American gangsters and inept officials, changing costumes with lightening speed.
The incredible creative team worked their magic through the ingenious set and lighting design, immersing us in the adventure as we followed Phileas and friends on their travels by sea, train and through the skies.
With joyous original songs, great jokes and hilarious physical comedy, this unmissable feel good show is sure to delight children and adults alike.
Running at the Octagon Bolton from 16 November 2023 to 6 January 2024.