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Around the World in 80 Days at the Union Theatre | Review

Around the World in 80 Days - Photo by Mark Senior
Around the World in 80 Days – Photo by Mark Senior

Around the World in 80 Days the musical is a delightful and delicious camp comic caper. Showcasing young talent this production of Jules Verne’s classic novel has been wonderfully adapted by Phil (or should that be Phileas?) Willmott. What Wilmott’s version gets absolutely spot on is a sense of fun. This is evident not only in the parodic songs and playfulness of the setting, costumes, scenes and treatment but also it is clear that the cast are having the time of their lives. This sense of fun is infectious. The audience buy into it and the auditorium is transformed into a space full of reciprocal joy between the cast and the consumers. Given that the play is about travel the venue for Around the World in 80 Days is highly appropriate. The Union Theatre is located in an architecturally stunning refurbished railway arch in Southwark.

For any talent scouts out there this show is a must. The range of talent on show is astonishing. These will be the stars of tomorrow. They can act, sing, dance, mime, tap, do circus and acrobatics. Robert Oliver as the villain Captain Fix is tremendous. With his high pitched cut-glass accent and sinister laugh, he is perfect. Aoibhin O’Neil as the Irish beauty Katy O’Flatherty is outstanding as she takes the stage by storm in her rousing numbers ‘Around the World with Katy’s Girls’ and ‘Around the States with Tammy’s Dames’. With her luscious curly red hair, infectious smile and a cheeky wink, she is a star in the making. Ceris Hine as the snobbish Miss Fotherington has the makings of a fine comic actress. Jasmin Minjoot is wonderful as Princess Aouda, her beautiful singing of ‘What Do I love’ is one of the high points of the evening. Connor Hughes’ French accent and mannerisms perfectly captured the comic essence of Passepartout, personal assistant to Phileas Fogg the English upper-class cad determined to travel around the world in 80 days. Sam Peggs as Fogg looks the part with his matinée idol good looks, moustache and hair parted at the side. Peggs excels in his English sense of entitlement and assumed superiority as he rides roughshod over (literally on an Elephant in India) the French, Indians, the Chinese, Japanese and Americans.

The originality of Around The World in 80 Days is evident in every song, scene and setting. Whether it’s Queen Victoria taking £100 out of her bra to place a bet on Phileas making it in 80 days, or the Mormon song ‘Life Here in the Wilderness’ which has a unique way of solving the labour shortage, or the use of umbrellas for a hot air balloon, or a Magritte painting to represent the sky, or an open book to represent birds wings flapping, or jigging on chairs to mimic a moving train, in this and a hundred other ways the creative thought and originality of this production is highly impressive and much appreciated and enjoyed by the audience. Around the World in 80 Days is a comic delight. It successfully adapts a 19th-century classic and makes it live anew for us now.

4 stars

Review by John O’Brien

Follow Phileas Fogg and his adorable madcap valet, Passepartout, as they race against time to circumnavigate the world in just 80 days. With his entire fortune at stake, Phileas risks life and limb to win his bet against his arch nemesis, Captain Fix, who will stop at nothing to thwart Fogg in his adventures.

This Summer, The Union Theatre invites you to jump in a hot air balloon and see the furthest continents and spectacles of the world without leaving the comforts of Southwark and embrace a classic tale, penned by acclaimed French Novelist, Jules Verne.

‘Around the World in 80 Days’ promises a fun-filled musical comedy that will entertain the entire family. Filled with catchy melodies, dastardly villains, high-kicking dance routines, performing elephants, nizam cannibals and dancing dragons, this is one show you don’t want to miss…

Will Phileas make it before the time runs out?

FREELY ADAPTED BY Phil Willmott from the Novel by Jules Verne
SCORE BY Annemarie Lewis Thomas

CAST: Sam Peggs, Connor Hughes, Jasmin Minjoot, Robert Oliver, Ceris Hine, Aoibhin O’Neill, Mikulas Urbanek, Beth Bradley, Luke Cartledge, Noé Bersier, Annabelle Louise, Priscilla Osegie, Ryan Willis, Courtney Hows, Ashley Shackell, Lucy Parsons and Kieran Wynne.

Director – Brendan Matthew
Choreographer – Mitchell Harper
Musical Director – Henry Brennan
Designer – Justin Williams/Jonny Rust
Casting Director – Adam Braham
Stage Manager – Martin Brady
Producer – Sasha Regan
Assistant Producer/Director – Luke Byrne

8th August-1st September 2018


  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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