A rip-roaring production of wit, charm and even a dose of acrobatics combine to make the Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of “Around the World in 80 Days” a dizzying delight.
Jules Verne’s classic novel, in which London gentleman and obsessive compulsive time-keeper Phileas Fogg circumnavigates the globe with his French valet Passepartout, has never been so fun.
Make no mistake, this is a real tour-de-force performance from an engaging and energetic cast who through the clever, choreographed use of props transform a circular stage in Manchester into an album of exotic destinations.
Verne wrote his novel in 1872, at the height of the British Empire and a time of new innovations in transport such as the Suez Canal, the First Transcontinental Railroad in America and the linking of the Indian railways.
But this production from the Royal Exchange and New Vic Theatre of Newcastle Under Lyme is no stuffy history lesson.
The many children, and adults, in the audience will testify to that.
The wild, weird and wonderful modes of transport are gloriously created as Fogg and companions travel on the famous Indian railways, elephants and steamers in a mad dash to win a Reform Club wager.
The sights and sounds of Fogg’s breakneck journey taking in Africa, the Far East, America and Victoria London are all there – and used as the basis for much of the comedy.
And if ever there was a show-stealing performance then Michael Hugo’s hilarious portrayal of lovable rapscallion Jean Passepartout has to be it.
His comic timing and physical comedy ensures a charming portrayal that will live long in the memory.
Dennis Herdman, in the style of bumbling Scotland Yard type detectives of past, is also brilliant as the misguided Inspector Fix.
The main man himself, Phileas Fogg, is played with just right level of restraint by Andrew Pollard.
Remarkably a total cast of just eight combine to bring a host of global characters to life.
So, however you choose to travel to the Royal Exchange – whether by train or elephant – make sure you don’t miss your connection to this wonderful production.
“Around the World in 80 Days” runs until August 16th.