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Roll up! Roll up! Around The World in 80 Days clowning, circus and pantomime tomfoolery

A band of travelling circus performers recreate the adventures of Phileas Fogg as he sets off on his race around the world. But this is a telling of two tales; fact meets fiction as we learn the incredible true story of American journalist Nellie Bly who emulated the character of Phileas in her record-breaking trip around the world.

Tilted Wig: Around The World in 80 Days, at the Corn Exchange on Thursday, March 16. Review by ROBIN STRAPP

Tilted Wig’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around The World in 80 Days by Juliet Forster, who also directs, is filled with a mixture of clowning, circus skills and pantomime tomfoolery as the story of Phileas Fogg’s arduous adventure to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days is told.

Alex Phelps, Genevieve Sabherwal and Eddie Mann. Photo credit_ Anthony Robling
Alex Phelps, Genevieve Sabherwal and Eddie Mann. Photo credit_ Anthony Robling

Sara Perks’ multi-level striking and colourful set is impressive. It’s filled with clever surprises and the costumes reflect the circus theme that dominates the design.

It all begins at the Reform Club in London where the large wager is made. Fogg, strongly played by Alex Phelps, is the epitome of a pompous, stuffy, tea-drinking English gentleman who is determined to win come what may.

Cleverly, running alongside this fictional tale is the true story of the American journalist Nellie Bly who did complete such a journey in 72 days, an incredible achievement. Katriona Brown brings out the stoic courage of her determination with calm assurance.

Alex Phelps, Genevieve Sabherwal and Eddie Mann. Photo Anthony Robling
Alex Phelps, Genevieve Sabherwal and Eddie Mann. Photo Anthony Robling

Fogg’s faithful French assistant Passepartout (Wilson Benedito) was a delight, always trying to please his master, while getting into so much mischief.

Detective Fix was Fogg’s nemesis, determined to bring him to justice should he land on British soil for an alleged crime. Eddie Mann relished this role, played with much comic invention.

The innovative use of a roller blind charted their journey as they visited each location; crossing seas, facing typhoons and encountering a variety of transport, from elephants in India to steam trains in America, where they encountered broken bridges and a railroad ambush straight out of the Wild West and an Atlantic crossing with an insane sea captain.

Genevieve Sabherwal was the elegant and touching Mrs Aouda, who becomes Fogg’s travelling companion and a romance starts to blossom.

With the circus theme running throughout, the cast used their variety of circus skills to good effect – the see-saw scene between Fix and Passepartout was sheer buffoonery – with bicycles of all shapes and sizes, scooters, hula hoops and unexpected trap doors.

It was just unfortunate that sound issues made it difficult to hear what the actors were saying – such a pity.

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