Fun take on globetrotting adventure Around The World In 80 Days stops off in Norwich
- Credit: Archant
It is a classic literary tale gone madcap; a global trek filled with laughter, slapstick and action. Now Jules Verne's Around The World In 80 Days is stopping off in the region. Andrew Pollard, who takes on the role of Phileas Fogg, tells us more.
It is a literary classic but not as you know it. A laugh-a-minute stage version of Jules Verne's literary classic Around The World In 80 Days is stopping off in the region, with a cast of eight playing over 125 characters in a imaginative, high-spirited escapade involving six trains, five boats, four fights, three dances, two circus acts and an elephant!
While the plot is at the core of the book, this version puts the emphasis on comedy and laughter with a host of rib-tickling moments.
And nowhere is that more the case than Phileas Fogg, the quintessential English hero of the play and book, who is portrayed in the show by Andrew Pollard.
'He is a very ordered man which I certainly am not!' laughs Andrew. 'He's everybody's idea of a 'stiff upper lip' Englishman but despite his insular nature, he is very kind and decent and fair. What is great about this character is we see him got through a marvellous transformation from a sort of remote, emotionally repressed kind of man to a man of passion and vigour. It is a lovely character journey to play telling the story of this very closed man who opens up to the marvels of the world and even finds love.'
The show, which runs at Norwich Theatre Royal from January 16-20, boasts some gloriously entertaining set-pieces but Andrew admits he does miss out on grabbing the giggles in some great laugh-out-loud moments.
He said: 'Fogg is the straight man about whom all the comedy and mayhem whirls. I love doing comedy but I have to remain calm and in control pretty much throughout. Sadly I don't get to do any slapstick and I have to wear a heavy hot Victorian costume during a very energetic show.'
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And he admits he does have a little bit of jealousy when it comes to the role of Passepartout, his fiercely loyal manservant. 'That is a terrific part. I'd love a bash at that, but I know I would never match the superb acrobatics and clowning of Mike Hugo, who plays him. He steals the show and deservedly so.'
The show is the latest role in a long-running stage career for Andrew whose previous theatre credits include a number of productions for the Manchester Royal Exchange and The New Vic, To Sir With Love for Birmingham Rep, and both Arsenic And Old Lace and The Lonesome West for Keswick Theatre By The Lake.
He is also no stranger to the small screen either with a number of TV credits including Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Spooks: Liberty.
So what was it about Around The World In 80 Days that particularly appealed to him? 'It's a show that I have been involved in from the beginning and it was fantastic to be asked to portray one of the most popular characters of Victorian literature,' he explains.
'I've worked with the director, Theresa Heskins, a lot over the past few years and she is marvellous at telling these epic tales in an exciting and immediate way. I've loved everything about it and have never tired of any aspect of it. It is three years since we last did the show so we're rediscovering it, with new actors joining us which opens up a whole new experience. It's so great to be able to take it round the country and to play such a wide variety of venues.'
This current production has enjoyed some strong reviews and positive audience reactions.
Andrew said: 'It's gone down a storm with audiences. People often leave saying they feel they have actually been round the world. The piece is so alive and fast-paced with none of the stuffiness and flabbiness often associated with Victorian storytelling. It's such a great yarn, full of derring-do and memorable characters, with wonderful style and epic sweep and a fantastic sense of theatricality.
'By its nature, it is also very filmic but at the same time it's such a high-energy show. It's very fast-paced; there are lots of theatrics, lots of comedy, with great spirit and joy, and of course there's audience interaction, so you do feel like you're being swept up on this journey. We also have a terrific score by James Atherton, which is a fantastic driving force throughout the show.'
That joy from the audience stems from the huge camaraderie and teamwork which the entire cast displays both onstage and off.
'In the show, we go around the world so it's epic in its scope. There are only eight of us in it so there's a lot of inventiveness and creativity involved. We have to create boats, trains, elephants, plus a myriad of fights and chases. It is a great ensemble piece, not only onstage but backstage. At the end of the show we are all knackered but in a really positive way and there's a real sense of having created something special.'
Having said all that, occasionally things go wrong and sometimes the finger of blame can point at only one member of the cast.
Andrew laughed: 'I might be the straight man in this show but no show is the same with Mike Hugo on board. Mike is one of the best clowns and all-round entertainers I have ever seen or worked with. Every night something unexpected or funny happens with him on stage. It's never dull, even off stage. You could sell tickets to watch what happens backstage.'
• Around the World in 80 Days is at Norwich Theatre Royal, January 16-20, 7.30pm, 2.30pm Jan 17/20, £21-£7, 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk