Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Monday, 29 August 2016
Around the World in 80 Days, Aug 27, 2016 ***
Adapted by Toby
Hulse from the book by Jules Verne, by Toby Hulse
Produced by Ellis Productions in
association with Aleksandar Vass The Alex,
St. Kilda, until Sept 4, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 26 Stars:***
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon Aug 29, 2016 & later in print. KH
Top to Bottom- Ian Stenlake, Pia Miranda, Grant Piro
Phileas Fogg might be described as obsessive-compulsive, but in Jules Verne’s 19th
century story, Around the World in 80
Days, Fogg is a gentlemanly, English adventurer with a penchant for
mathematical precision in all things.
Toby Hulse’s stage adaptation of Verne’s novel, directed
here by Terence O’Connell, is a spirited and diverting two-hour romp suitable for
the whole family and performed by only three actors.
Ian Stenlake is dapper and haughty as the meticulous Fogg
who makes a £20,000 wager
with two gentlemen from
the Reform Club in London, that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days,
departing at exactly 8.45pm on October 2, 1872 and returning exactly 80 days
later by 8.45pm on December 21.
Fogg embarks on his journey with his loyal valet, Passepartout
(Pia Miranda), and is pursued by a determined detective, Fix of Scotland Yard (Grant
Piro), who believes Fogg to be an infamous bank robber because he resembles the
general description of the thief, particularly his “magnificent teeth”.
With pompous self-assurance and a bag stuffed with
crisp pound notes, Fogg leads Passepartout and Fix across India, China, Japan
and America on a series of madcap adventures on trains, boats and elephants, escaping
a typhoon and even rescuing an Indian Princess from certain death.
Piro, with his impeccable comic delivery and mastery
of slapstick, is a highlight in multiple roles including the detective, Fix,
who he portrays with an absurd doggedness and hilariously over-articulated
accent peppered with dropped “h’s”.
With his mobile, clown face and complicity with the
audience, Piro garners plenty of laughs as Fix, then in drag as the prim,
Indian Princess, and intermittently as a parade of outrageous cultural
Miranda plays Passepartout as a pert and attentive
lad, getting additional comic mileage from being compelled to rush about the
cluttered stage to change costumes and switch roles in a blink.
O’Connell’s direction draws on Music Hall comic banter,
silent movie cop chases and classic clown antics to bring to life Fogg’s
rollicking, adventurous travels across continents and oceans.
Some of the physical comedy routines and cueing need
tightening and often the funniest moments for the audience are when things seem
to go wrong on stage with tumbling scenery or fast costume changes and the
actors appear to be ad libbing animatedly.
The flexible, sepia-toned set (Merinda Backway) captures the 19th
century period with a collection of wheels and cogs and an enormous clock-face
to remind us of the days and hours ticking away.
The giggles from a nearby 10 year-old indicate that this production
tickles the funny bone of a young audience and that the show is an energetic
and charming entertainment for the entire family.