Around The World In 80 Days.
|Date||9th December 2022|
|Society||Todmorden Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society TAODS|
|Venue||Todmorden Hippodrome Theatre|
|Type of Production||Play with some music.|
|Musical Director||Chloe McNeill.|
|Written By||Laura Eason from the novel by Jules Verne.|
Author: Paul R. Mason
I was told to expect something different with this show. I was not disappointed. The play is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the Jules Verne novel published in 1873. The story of Phileas Fogg’s bet with members of the Reform Club that he could circumnavigate the globe in exactly 80 days is a classic. It sold in thousands on giving rise to intrepid travellers seeking to imitate him. Most of these achieved their aim in less than 80 days! The incentive for Fogg is £20,000, a sum he needs to expend to hire the boats, trains and all the other forms of transport plus expenses for himself and his valet Passepartout. Although not an inconsiderable sum by any standard the equivalent wager if made in 2022 would be just short of £3M. We were prepared for our journey in fine style in true showman’s fashion by Rosie Hodson also ably doubling as the map monitor and several other supporting roles. It was an invigorating introduction whetting our appetites for what was to follow. It is hard to describe into which genre the play falls. A “romp” might be the best description as we are taken from country to country meeting danger and excitement at every stop. Add to this the prospect that Mr. Fogg may be impeded by the intervention of the persistent Inspector Fix and it makes for a highly engaging couple of hours of dramatic whimsy. TAODS are respected for pushing the boat out and trying different types of plays.
The four leads were exceptional. James Young played Phileas Fogg as an unflustered Englishman who was never in doubt about his ability to win his wager. Calm under pressure and direct in his instructions to his valet, James was a delight to watch. His reaction, without breaking the fourth wall, to the interruption of an enthusiastic member of the audience was amusing and well controlled, attracting the admiration of the audience. Passepartout in the hands of Joe Marsden was funny, energetic and a character one warmed to as the play progressed. Ceri Garnett played Mrs. Aouda as a damsel in distress needing the strong arms of a hero to save her from disaster. It was a clever portrayal for a role that in truth is rather underdeveloped. As Inspector Fix the wonderfully talented Janet Spooner again made us squirm with glee. There was a murmur of excitement and anticipation every time she appeared as we waited to see what grimaces, double takes and immaculate bits of nonsense she was going to regale us with. Congratulations too to the remarkable ensemble of Sam Cresswell, Hamish Heald, Jennie Bailey and Bethany Vakulich who skillfully breathed life into a veritable cornucopia of supporting roles. When required to cut a caper Emma Cook choreographed the moves, managing to enhance the various demands of the different countries we happened to be in at the time. Chloe McNeill as coordinator and singing/vocal arranger managed her troops with discipline resulting in crisp performances all round. Lighting and sound were perfect. The pieces of music chosen to illustrate the moods were deftly used. Justine Sutcliffe managed the stage brilliantly while the costume team came up trumps too.
As stated in the introduction in the attractive programme this is no “ordinary play”. It is packed with colour and surprises. To be successful it absolutely demands to be played at a consistent pace full of vigour and swagger. It is to director James Claxton’s credit that this was achieved. Never did the action lose momentum, although (and please forgive me) the bandits scene did seem to be almost in danger of being a little overblown. James rightly acknowledges the dedicated team behind the scenes. Yet a strong helmsman is essential. James is such a person.Often overlooked is the fun that can be derived from putting shows together in rehearsal. I am certain this cast and crew had enormous enjoyment during the process.
“Bumpy ride”! ? Not a bit of it. This was an unusual yet captivating production. Thank you, David, for your welcome and livlely chat. It is always a pleasure to come to the Todmorden Hippodrome.