Stepping into the New Theatre Cardiff this week is one with more adventure than most. Whilst theatre can transport an audience to another place, this week there is more transport, many places, and so much laughter. Laura Easton’s adaptation of the classic Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne is finding a new audience through the young people fortunate enough to bear witness.
I made the mistake I usually make of assuming a familiarity of a theatre experience. Taking three 8 year-olds to the New Theatre saw the realisation that one really should not assume. As we were introduced to a cleverly choreographed opening scene presenting the repetitive, monotonous life of Phileas Fogg I had visions of leaving in the interval. And at first the voices of the stage did not reach our seats as clearly as they might.
But as the journey began, and the humour of Michael Hugo’s Passepartout reached us, there was no looking back. My three charges were truly on this journey. We each took in eight countries, absorbed each of the characters, witnessed an elephant appear from a coat, and took enormous enjoyment from the cleverly crafted script. There was confusion at the curtain call to see so few actors on the stage given how many characters we had met. Non-stop conversation on the way home about how this happened.Made possible through the spell which has been cast by Director Theresa Haskins, there is an abundance of creativity and imagination which has been brought in each element of theatre. From the choreography which sees the understanding of travelling by train, by boat, and by elephant. Of the fantastic Matrix-esque fight scenes, slow motion and Laurel & Hardy style chase scenes. This is a production which stays true to its place in time but is relevant and engaging in today’s world.
We bought into the challenge, the wager accepted to travel the world in 80 days. We loved the use of staging to create so many different modes of transport and locations, through lighting, suitcases and music. The girls particularly were in disbelief at the conjured notes flying through the air. And they loved the audience participation, whilst not being divorced from the story.
I’m not sure where to begin on favourite scenes, for this feels very much the result of the ensemble effort. We did absolutely love Passepartout, but this seems impossible in isolation. Andrew Pollard’s Phileas Fogg is the staple, cool character which enables the comedy to have balance and contrast. There is strength in Kirsten Foster’s Mrs Aouda, providing a gender balance to the piece, and somehow creating the conviction of this love story with Fogg. And of course, there is the Trigger- esque Inspector Fix, bringing additional tension to the challenge, with every effort to hinder Fogg.
Each element of the story is carefully crafted. Creating enough conviction through imagination without losing the younger audience. The comedy is well-balanced to the thrill of the story- will Fogg achieve his aim and how far-reaching are the consequences if he doesn’t?
The script is fast paced, at times laughter from a previous moment losing the next. Sometimes the children were too in awe of what had happened to remain at a pace with the action. Fortunately nothing is lost in this. Any slow-down would impinge the creation of the urgency of time.
My initial doubts of this being a piece to introduce new theatre- goers were completely overcome by the theatre. I hope the audience will be accepting of the need for theatre to reach new faces. I loved appreciating its magic not only through one’s own eyes but through those of the younger audience. This production is as much for adults, which makes the conversation afterwards even more enjoyable, another dimension of sight.
Around the World in 80 Days is at the New Theatre Cardiff until Sunday 24th September. Tickets are available on the website and on 029 20 87 88 89.
Disclosure: We received tickets for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions contained are my own.