I am back for an article which will not be a book review but, if we may say, a kind of theatre play review. Indeed, a couple of weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to attend an amazing play at St James’s Theatre: Around the World in 80 days. (Thank you again Andrew, if you read this!). Do not fear my bookish friends, this play is based on the eponymous novel by Jules Verne (published in France in 1872) so we’ll stay in the bookish area.
I am very sorry for posting this article so late, as the play is not on at St James’s Theatre anymore (it was performed until the 17th of January…) and so if my article makes you feel like going to see it, it is kind of impossible I’m afraid. However, this play was so amazing that I still feel like telling you about it, and I am pretty sure that you will hear about the director of the play and its actors in the near future (so remember, you’ll need to go to see any play/movie/new thing which involves the director or a member of the cast because they’re all awesome!)
This theatre adaptation of Around the World in 80 days was written by Laura Eason and the play was directed by Lucy Bailey at St James’s Theatre. The cast comprised 8 actors (who played 50 different characters!), among whom some famous ones I believe (Robert Portal, who plays Phileas Fogg, one of the lead roles, played in a bunch of other plays and movies such as The King’s Speech or The Ghostwriter).
As previously mentioned, this play is adapted from the novel Around the World in 80 days written by French writer Jules Verne. What is this novel about? Well, the title is pretty self-explanatory: that’s the story of an English upper class gentleman, Phileas Fogg, who bets all his money that he can go round the world in 80 days. The book recounts his eventful travel around the world with his French valet Passpartout. During their race against the clock throughout the continents, the two men will of course encounter some unusual adventures and obstacles, mainly because of the unscrupulous inspector Fix, who chases Phileas Fogg because he’s convinced that Fogg is a bank robber. Obviously this book, set in 1872, was written during the Industrial Revolution, when the steam train and other big improvements revolutionized the ways of travelling, and this travel frenzy was also very vivid in the play.
This play was absolutely magical: with very very little material and few actors to play various characters, this show really managed to make me travel. The changes of settings were extremely clever and funny: some objects were used and re-used for different purposes but each scene had its own atmosphere and really made us believe we were in a particular country. With two benches, a bit of music, a bedsheet and an incredible acting, we were on a train with the characters, and so on. I was really blown away by this creativity and by how, with so little, incredible settings and atmospheres could come to life! There was much music as well, sometimes live – an old piano stayed on the stage during the whole play, but most of the music was actually recorded music which had been composed specially for the play by Django Bates –and the actors were so wonderful that we did not really realize (or at least, this was not weird or disturbing at all) that a handful of actors were playing dozens of different characters. All of the actors were wonderful, but my favourite character was probably Passpartout, who was played by Simon Gregor. Even if his French accent was sometimes closer to the German or the Italian accent, he was such a believable, funny and engaging character. I think I had never laughed so much at the theatre, and this was thanks to this great character.
But, as I was saying, the whole cast was absolutely incredible, and I really need to mention all the other actors who brought to life these colourful and engaging characters: Shanaya Rafaat, Tony Gardner, Eben Figueiredo, Tim Steed, Lena Kaur and Liz Sutherland. I was also reading an extremely interesting article by Laura Eaton, who wrote the play, and she was emphasizing the fact that there are also some deeper and political messages in this play – they remain very subtle and they have not struck me while I was watching the play but there are definitely there and make the play even more interesting I believe – even if she deliberately wrote a family-friendly play. You can read this article here if you’re interested in reading more about theatre and politics.
I’m going to stop here because I think you got it: this play was wonderful and I recommend to anyone (including myself) 1) to read the original novel, because it seems to be a great and colourful adventure novel and also it is a classic 2) check out for forthcoming shows involving any of the members of the creative and acting team who took part in this play.
I hope you enjoyed this article and I’ll see you soon for a new book review. Please also let me know if you have any theatre play to recommend to me, as I really feel like going to the theatre more often now!