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Fun-filled ’80 Days’ for kids of all ages

A joyfully lighthearted new production of Jules Verne’s classic story Around the World in 80 Days is having a stop-over in Cardiff this week.

Adapted and directed by Juliet Forster for Tilted Wig Productions and York Theatre Royal, this energetic and fun-filled version adds an extra twist – telling the story of real-life 19th century adventurer Nellie Bly alongside the fictional tale of Phileas Fogg, which inspired her.

The show received an enthusiastic welcome to the New Theatre last night (Thursday), where it continues until Sunday.

It opens with a band of travelling performers, who recreate the famous Verne story in suitably energetic and often acrobatic style.

The highly talented cast of just five is kept busy with multiple roles. And they are all faultless – Alex Phelps (as Fogg), Genevieve Sabherwal (Aouda), Wilson Benedito (Passepartout), Katriona Brown (Nellie Bly), and Eddie Mann (Detective Fix). The set design by Sara Perks is outstanding: based around a vintage-style circus big top, but morphing into ships, trains, docks, cities, a gentlemen’s club, and countless other locations.

It’s very much a family show, for those of seven and up. The characters are engaging, and there’s very little sense of jeopardy – even the scheming ‘villain’, Fix, seems harmless (and Passepartout can’t resist his eyes!).

It’s a fun-filled adventure, clearly aimed at a very young audience, but it appealled to this old kid too. There’s even some panto-style interaction with the audience.

Most of the Nellie Bly story is told, rather than shown, which may be less appealling to children. But these mini-lectures are informative for the grown-ups, and they’re so brief, we’re soon back in the child-friendly action of the Verne adventure.

And the youngsters certainly did enjoy this last night. I was delighted to hear the reactions of a little boy near me, perhaps on his first theatre trip, responding and commenting on the action!

You can catch Around The World in 80 Days at the New Theatre tonight (Friday) at 7pm, tomorrow (Saturday) at 1pm and 5.30pm, and on Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are available from the box office on 0343 310 0041 or online here.

Review by Andy Weltch

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