With no PCRs or travel restrictions, no airport delays or last-minute cancellations, audiences enjoyed a rare opportunity for carefree escapism as Jules Verne’s classic story Around the World in 80 Days provided fantastic, feel-good, festive entertainment. From the evocative set to the atmospheric sound, lighting, costumes and props, the audience was immediately immersed in a truly global experience.
Racing at break-neck speed through Europe, Asia and America in a bid to win a fortune-changing bet, our intrepid duo jumped from train to ship, from sailing boat to elephant, and back again, pausing only to save the engaging, plucky Indian princess (Orlando Meadowcroft and James Webster) from certain death. The physical theatre in these scenes was particularly effective and the elephant will live long in the memory! Phileas Fogg’s gentlemanly reserve, unflappability and eccentricity (effectively conveyed by Gabriel Meadowcroft and William Saunders) were perfectly counter-balanced by the lively energy and humour of colourful French valet Passepartout (played by Archie Cowie and James Nicholas). The well-drilled, enthusiastic ensemble hurled themselves with aplomb and energy, and no little self-effacing humour, into the succession of well-choreographed dance scenes, none more so than the entertaining tea-drinking dances and the all-action and flamboyant acrobatic troupe. Indeed, the flexibility and nuanced characterisation of a succession of very specific roles really impressed from this talented young cast.
High-spirited throughout and never taking itself too seriously, humour and farce bubbled close to the surface. At times a carefully-executed romp with general shenanigans, at others a touching reflection on companionship and friendship, and at others simply a preposterous and gloriously silly and slapstick extravaganza, a whistle-stop journey abruptly and far too quickly brought us back to Guildford, but all the richer for the experience, and all the happier for a holiday of a lifetime!