Directed by Terence O’Connell
Presented by Ellis Productions and Aleksandar Vass
Q Theatre Queanbeyan to 5 August
Reviewed by Len Power 2 August 2017
Jules Verne’s novel ‘Around The World In Eighty Days’ was published in 1873. In the story, Phileas Fogg of London and his newly employed French valet Passepartout attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days on a £20,000 wager set by his friends at the Reform Club. Believing that Fogg was involved in a robbery prior to starting his journey, a Scotland Yard detective follows him, ready to pounce.
In this stage adaptation by Toby Hulse, the wager has been increased to £40,000 and a cast of three plays all of the characters. The media release states that it incorporates elements of ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’, recently seen here again in Canberra. You know the drill – period story, lots of characters played by a small cast at a dizzying speed, minimal props and the humour arising from how the cast manage to get through it.
This show never really catches fire and the problem is mainly with the adaptation by Toby Hulse. Jules Verne’s novel takes us on a fantastic journey full of colourful adventures along the way. This adaptation uses the itinerary mapped out in Jules Verne’s novel but focusses mostly on the interaction between the characters. The actors play the scenes as if they are in old-style music hall or vaudeville and any adventures are only described by a narrator or they’re just skipped over. Even though the show moves quickly from one short scene to the next, it becomes tedious with the repetitious repartee between the characters and laughs are few and far between.
The talented cast really work hard. Ian Stenlake is perfect as Phileas Fogg, the classic upper class Englishman who is never fazed by the obstacles encountered on the journey. Rubber-faced Wayne Scott Kermond is right at home with this type of comedy. He is particularly funny as the Indian Princess and Sharon Millerchip is terrific in a gender-bending performance as Passepartout, Fogg’s valet. The scene she shares with Kermond where she gets steadily drunk is especially well done with a fine sense of comic timing.
Set design, costumes, lighting and sound all work fine. If the producers had supplied a program I could have told you who was responsible for them. Director, Terence O’Connell, keeps the show all moving at a fast pace but it just never seems inventive enough.
(The image above shows two earlier cast members, not the current players.)
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘Artcetera’ program (9.00am Saturdays) and on other selected Artsound programs.