Around The World In 80 Days currently playing at The Alex Theatre, St Kilda, is a charming adaptation of the classic Jules Verne novel. Toby Hulse has crafted a cute script that tests the acting muscle of three actors, “playing a cast of thousands!”
Ian Stenlake as the central character Phileas Fogg is expertly assisted by Pia Miranda as Passepartout and Grant Piro as Inspector Fix.
Around The World In Eighty Days is a trip down memory lane. It is all warm tones, English witt, colourful characters and crazy capers. Leave all world weariness and cynicism at the door, sit back, relax, and allow these three very talented actors lull you into a lively, yet gentle, entertainment. A masterclass in story-telling and a belly full of laughs.
Phileas Fogg, while visiting his London club, sets himself the challenge to circum-navigate the globe in eighty days. The day before, the Bank of England had been robbed of forty thousand pounds, and so the large wager that Phileus places on this challenge casts him in a dubious light. Inspector Fix, who is searching for the robber, focuses his well-honed instincts on Phileus and follows him on his dash across the globe. Assisting Philieus Fogg on his adventures is his newly appointed man-servant Passepartout.
The master stroke of the producers, Helen Ellis and Aleksander Vass, was casting Around The World In 80 Days so perfectly. Ian Stenlake, tall and every bit the leading man, strides the stage with a singular purpose and a cheeky glint in his eye. Any stage would benefit from the warmth and ease of this talented actor.
Pia Miranda has a timeless quality, which is perfect for the impish way that she approaches Passepartout. Her diminutive figure, big brown expressive eyes, peering out from under the rim of her bowler hat, speaks to the child adventurer in us all.
Grant Piro illustrates why he is such a sought after actor lending his talent to more than a few beautifully observed characters, articulate accents, and a real eye comedy.
After a slow start, and once the main characters are established, the fun begins… the actors jump from character to character on the flip of a coin, at times something akin to a “Carry On Film” but without the sexual innuendo. Having said that, the play culminates in the pairing of Phileus and the exotic Aouda, who they had rescued along the way. Aouda is played hysterically by Grant Piro in a turn that is worth the ticket price.
While the script does seem a little under developed, the design (Merinda Backway) is clever, yet simple, and full of detail. As is the costume design by Lucy Wilkins. Terrence O’Connel has orchestrated the action with clarity but the actors seemed cramped on the Alex’s small stage and, as the show tours, I’m sure they will enjoy breathing this story into life in larger venues.
There are not many plays that are family friendly. Around The World In 80 Days is one such rarity. A perfect cast in a cute, crazy, caper!