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Around the World in 80 Days, Cumbernauld Theatre

Not counting the short interval, this family-friendly foray into Jules Verne’s globe-trotting adventure accounted for Phileas Fogg’s journey in around 80 minutes.

Like him, it travelled with hand luggage. Unlike him, it had a limited budget.

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Of necessity, therefore, the sights and sounds that Fogg and his resourceful man-servant, Passepartout, encountered en route were hinted at on a modest scale – the elephant, for instance, being a model beast in the fullest, if miniature, sense of the phrase. Instead, director Ed Robson and his cast of four trusted in our imagination: they would supply the words – we would fill in the details of Fogg’s rapidly shifting locations. Actually, they did give us some clues. A large-scale map of the world formed a backdrop to the staging, with essential ports of call picked out in pinpricks of light. The suitcases carried by Passepartout (James McAnerney, also saddled with a cod-Fraunch aggsent) were packed with occasional props, but otherwise it was up to the actors to take us with them from one continent to another crisis.

Johnny Austin’s Fogg was almost too much the punctilious dry stick, though not only the rescued Aouda (Imogen Toner) was moved by his gentlemanly stoicism when it seemed the wager, and his wealth, were lost by a pesky 15 minutes. And if the bumbling Detective Fix (Darran Lightbody) played dirty – convinced that Fogg was a fugitive criminal – he also played for laughs in a production that maybe needed more haw-haw and less jaw-jaw.

Even so, as Cumbernauld Theatre marks its 31st season, commendably determined to be a focal point for the local community, this was a decent stab at proving family shows are not just for Christmas.

Run ended.

Star rating: ***

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