|"First Class Piece of Entertainment."|
by William Glenn for remotegoat on 30/12/11
The highlights of this production (there were many delightful moments) are, for me, without a doubt the various 'travelling' sequences, where one mode of transport or another is assembled out of bits of stage flotsam and the entire ensemble become a locomotive, an elephant, a tube, and more. These well-timed, wickedly executed bits of stage magic are an example of everything I love about live performance. When people and props become special effects achieving feats that would be impossible for Industrial Light and Magic. There's this organic sort of tangible quality to seeing a group of people gathering benches, wicker baskets, lampshades and more, twirling 'round one another and building something right before your eyes. If you took a picture of it, no-one would see the ocean-going steamer that's been conjured up out of nothing more than imagination. It's the experience of being there, of being part of the body of people wanting it, willing it, that steamer, into existence. It's an achievement of collaboration between you and me and them that makes the thing happen and this is where Kate Bannister and her cast really shine.
Astoundingly, the lead, Barra Collins, stepped into the role as Fogg at the last minute when previous leading man David Mildon injured himself and had to step down. Despite having had minimal time to prepare, Collins delivers a fine performance and is the linchpin of a cast of versatile and talented performers. Adrian Salmon is particularly enjoyable as Fogg's French man-servant, Passportout with his trusty watch. Brigid Lohrey's repeated appearances as the consular representative of all of the various nations the intrepid duo visit get funnier with each new port of call, and alongside James Hayward as Mr. & Mrs. Cromarty, the pair steal the show. Haywood's dozen or so different accents and crusty characters spanning the globe are a riot. Hannah Wood's committed and talented character acting adds a bit of cheek and a pinch of spice to the mix, and Emily Lockwood is charming as the lovely (if not exactly dusky) Princess Aouda.
Technically, the show was every bit as much of a success as the performances of the ensemble. Joe Churchman's sound is (delightfully) as much of a star as William Ingham's lighting designs, the two mingling to create the dusty atmosphere of the turn of the century as we careen through Britain, China, India, America, and all the world's oceans. David Shields' costumes are exactly what you want (I particularly enjoyed Passpartout's circus garb) and perfectly compliment his ingenious set. It's a tribute to the collaborative skills of the creative team and the leadership of Bannister that the sets, whisked around the stage, configured, reconfigured, constructed and deconstructed, are just as expertly choreographed in their moves as the performers themselves have been, and brings great credit upon Judy Gordon, Kate and company for their combined role as Choreographer. Brute Farce's adaptation of the enduring classic by Jules Verne is bursting with witty, current references and pokes fun more or less equally at people from every nation (though it does single out Britain and America a bit, to the delight of the audience). This script does a fine job of straddling the line between making a classic fresh and relevant and yet maintaining the texture and feel of the original.
Around the World in 80 Days, extended now to run through 8th January at the Brockley Jack Theatre, is not about preaching lofty ideals or pushing the envelop in a bid for the intellectuals' votes. It won't have you debating deep social issues over your pints after the show, but it will have you chuckling at a remembered bit as you make your way home. It's not going to change the world, but this is by design; changing the world is not what Bannister and her band have set out to do. They've set out to entertain, and this is a first class piece of entertainment, and a good time to be had by all.
|Event Venues & Times|
|finished||Brockley Jack Theatre | 410 Brockley Road, Brockley, London, SE4 2DH|
Other recent reviews by William Glenn
|Mr Rabbit meets Brer Santa|
|The Orgy in the Lighthouse|
|The Return of the Exile|