Travel is so much about being mishandled and watching your keeps roll off the conveyor belt, ready to throw your left shoe at someone trying to run off with your belongings. For those without an itinerary that means keeping at least one non-glass eye on the gate.
Around the World in 80 Days throws in five faces and spins them around in what ends up feeling quicker than it really is. It’s some hours later and the pace and frivolity have been conducting the legs with a speed farce. The play is fun and turns up when the cast break face, but hold steady. It can’t be always be to plan, and that is what makes it.
In a sense it distils that bifurcated blend of haphazard and planned adventure that starts when leaving the front door closed behind you. Stepping into the wind knowing roughly what’s going to happen, but leaning with both knees into the wading pool to see and expect anything else that will blindside you. To an extent. You can only go so far into the darkness of new before you’re looking for the familiar.
Phileas Fogg (Brandie Davis) does not have a sense of wonder anymore. Passing through ports looking for the next method of ferry. There inside it’s much like the gutted shell of the frequent flier. Always sitting in airports ready for the next boarding call. No longer finding the treasure in the journey. Yes, they are ready for what comes after going through customs at high frequency, but taking the time to be in a place, it’s all gone behind the eyes. There now exists the commuter passing through after a high fibre diet with plenty of water. Endless is the sigh and resignation that consumes the character.
On the other hand, Passepartout (Alexandra George), while wanting for a quieter life when taking the job under Fogg, is quick to resurge energy that takes the wind and gets into all sorts of messes and misunderstandings. That’s the kind of traveller that revels in the day-to-day of being in a foreign place, of different lands, and running for the last minute. They are the fire that burns bright before they get into the sweaty rivulet of a leg sleeping against a grimy window, or finding another passenger’s drool coating your arm.
Two mental modes of the traveller. Two states of mind and wandering about from one port to the next. Fogg’s money no doubt makes sliding through gates much easier, but it’s Passepartout’s peeled eyeballs that experiences the most. Travel is for growing uncomfortable. For exploring a personal spin on getting out of the muck of sitting in a rut and taking in discovery of the world out there.
Stage design is sparse and does a lot with the crates that move about between scenes. Numbers are on each, but if there is any significance, it’s not called out. Or maybe there isn’t any to be had at all. What they do to bring out an elephant in one leg is absurd and the sheer spectacle of it plays a lot more when the cast themselves take no notice of how wildly unconcerned they are at the hide showing so much discolouration. It does not look like a well beast at all.
Around the World in 80 Days is a light-hearted, expressive jaunt that brings out a smell of working out what comes next. Accents can be broad, hyper-stereotypical in cases, but the side characters add to that flavour of being outside your element and leaving it to you to take from it what you will when you step outside.
Creaking on board the Friday 3 March 2017 performance at 19:30 with a 15 minute intermission at Stoner Little Theatre in Somerset, Kentucky. A production from Flashback Theater directed by Sommer Schoch. Those seats must be heritage for they do consume any and all comfort with a nod to losing movement.
Reviewed on Sunday, 19 March 2017
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