Jules Verne’s classic novel Around the World in Eighty Days has been successfully adapted on numerous occasions over various artistic platforms. Directors often run a risk in adapting beloved classics – too much creative license and an audience’s frightfully high expectations can lead to the demise of a production. Thankfully, the talented University of Sheffield Light Entertainment Society take this in their stride, providing their audience with a refreshing, wacky 45 minute performance.
Following a bet made with members of a men’s club, Phileas Fogg (Will Turner) attempts to travel around the world in 80 days. Accompanied by his loyal servant Passepartout (Matthew Hartill), the pair journey from continent to continent by various non-traditional modes of transport – from bareback elephant riding to hot air balloon. The plot soon thickens, with Fogg being accused of robbing the Bank of England. Officer Fix (Megan Roberts) and her bashful, rather US(E)LES(S) cousin Jerry (Angus Ross) chase Fogg and Passepartout around the globe in hope of arresting the proposed culprit. Along the way there are many comical mishaps and unexpected romances that deviate from the original storyline.
Will Turner’s performance as Fogg stole the show. He performed with the utmost confidence and showcased his talent as an actor with his consistent upper class English accent and tongue-in-cheek improv throughout. The whole production was enhanced by the use of multiple minor characters to provide the audience with bursts of humour and to aid the development of the story. Josh Cooper, who played an impressive five different roles, deserves particular credit for his performance. His improv as a prop fell apart on stage, and his quick change of demeanor from each character he portrayed accentuated his comfortability and talent upon stage. Ultimately, the evening’s success would not have been possible without the highly skilled supporting cast both on and off stage. Each character on stage was played to each performers individual strengths, with special mention to the performance of Jerry by Angus Ross, which credits wonderful casting and directing by Joe Reed and Talia Riche.
The use of comedy and wit made scene transitions and lack of props effortlessly entertaining. Performances such as this one prove USLES are capable of much more than just silly, sometimes chaotic theatre and raise the bar for low-budget university productions.
A cleverly written script, confident acting and directing as well as an excellent minimal crew rendered this performance a great success. USLES made this adaptation their own, and definitely left their audience anticipating their next production.