Bolton Octagon’s new musical production of Around the World in 80 Days is a fun, festive treat that keeps its audience – particularly its younger members – merrily entertained right the way through, although its slapstick and interactive elements may not appeal as much to older viewers and teens.
Kash Arshad directs Kate Ferguson and Susannah Pearse’s larger-than-life adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic novel, which has its world premiere here.
It follows Lady Phileas Fogg, an eccentric Englishwoman who accepts a mad bet to travel around the world in 80 days, with a fortune and her reputation on the line.
Polly Lister is fantastic as Lady Phileas. Her powerful voice and commanding presence sweep the action along, while her emotional vulnerability and grief for her husband and son provide touching moments amidst all the hilarity.
The choice to swap Phileas’ gender from the original is particularly effective. Pompous Sir John Sullivan (Robert Jackson) can’t believe a woman could possibly be resourceful enough to succeed on her travels.
The suitably villainous newspaper mogul plots to ruin her adventure to save himself £50,000, adding some social commentary for older viewers without straying too far from the play’s lighthearted core.
Kai Spellman as loyal butler Passepartout provides plenty of laughs, especially with his extremely thick French accent and full French-flag suit.
The cast’s multi-roling – featuring interactive props and supersonic costume changes – is another highlight. The set and lighting are also expertly crafted, especially white clouds which descend as the adventurers take to the skies, and flashing lights as train tracks.
At points the music feels superfluous and breaks up the narrative flow, and the second act descends somewhat into farce – complete with (mercifully not too much) audience interaction. But overall, this is a feelgood adventure perfect for getting kids excited for the festive season and immersed in some talented theatre.
Around the World in 80 Days will be at the Bolton Octagon until Saturday 6 January 2024, with tickets available here.
All images credit to Pamela Raith. Used with permission of Bolton Octagon.