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A CurtainUp London Review
Around the World in Eighty Days and The Mother
As a director Phil Willmott has long been able to conjure spectacle out of very little by way of resources and this season's events are no exception. The musical version of the Jules Verne classic is a delight, with songs composed by Phil and Annemarie Lewis Thomas. There are appearances from Queen Victoria (Natalie Harman) and Sherlock Holmes (Benjamin O'Mahony) and the Indian princess Aouda (Suzanne Ahmet) accompanies Phineas Fogg (Eugene Washington) and Passepartout (Joseph Wicks) for much of their journey after she is rescued from her dead husband's funeral pyre in India.
Fogg's itinerary is fraught with more problems that the London Underground on a weekend as train lines die out, boats are missed but ingenious solutions are offered. Blink and you will miss the sand dancers of Egypt, the cast fanning themselves in the heat of the Indian jungle, but the gun slingers of the Wild West swagger wide kneed and the highlight of the show musically for me was the song "Get Another Wife" from the numerous wives of Salt Lake City Mormon farmer and bigamist Hicks (the splendidly sonorous Hadrian Delacey).
Eugene Washington is a tongue in cheek stuff shirt serious Victorian gentleman and his servant played by Joseph Wicks is into scrapes, an enfant mechant. The action is choreographed and great fun as improvised steam trains and miniature hot air balloons are carried over the stage. Every member of the cast works hard and the result is a diverting production for all the family.
By way of contrast The Mother is about the politicalisation of a Russian peasant woman Pelegea Vlassova (Nicky Goldie) after her son Pavel (Alistair Hoyle) becomes a political activist and she sees the injustice of the regime. It is an epic but human story of perseverance set against the grinding poverty of the Russian peasants before the revolution. Ravenhill's adaptation has clarity and exposition and the result is more involving that the ordeal for me that is Mother Courage. There are rousing revolutionary songs from Richard Norris who also plays guitar and Pelegea will participate for the revolutionary cause culminating in waving the enormous red flag, the banner symbolising the struggle. Phil Willmott and Mark Ravenhill will both play Nicolai Vessovchikov, Pelegea's kindly and quirky employer. This production with its adult themes, despite the outdoors setting would not really be recommended for the squirming, fidgeting, distracting under tens.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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