The story of Jules Verne's 'Around The World in 80 Days' is a story loved by many, but it has never been seen quite like this before. Staged at the Oxford Playhouse, audiences of all ages are invited to follow along on the madcap adventure of the rich and eccentric Phileas Fogg and his slapstick tag-along Passepartout, along with a host of other fun characters as they race to travel the globe and win the bet. Fogg is known by his friends to be precise and rigid in all of his dealings, but in making this journey he is forced to improvise and take wild risks, not only in the logistics of the mission but in matters of the heart as well.
There is always an inherent challenge in a piece which is set in so many different locations, but the transitions from country to country were wondrously executed and always surprising. From London we are seamlessly transported using only costumes, props and music to one exotic locale after another, conjuring up trains and boats, elephants and marketplaces, and even an impressive acrobatic display. One moment the adventurers are riverside in Hong Kong, the next the Wild West, all via a few simple set changes and the rest conveyed through excellent physical theatre.
The show is a delight for children, and there is ample opportunity for audience participation to help our heroes along, but it is just as entertaining for adults as we see Fogg fumbling with a blossoming romance and Passepartout take an accidental visit to an opium den. There are many fights and brawls, but the punches thrown are at such a comical distance and expressed in such over-the-top slow motion that it remains light-hearted throughout. There are also nods to the story being such a cultural icon of modern times, such as the adamant refusal that there will not be a single hot air balloon involved, and it addresses the problematic colonial British rule through a lens that the original story could not at the time.
Around the World in 80 Days never loses its paces or drops in energy for a moment, and consistently keeps the laughs coming. The production value is excellent with its ornate set made up of suitcases and the evocative costumes for each character, as well as the sound and lighting adding to the overall experience. This show comes highly recommended - a success you can bet on.