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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Around the World In 80 Days

On tour in January 2003.

This is the Newbury Weekly News review.

Well travelled theatre

'AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS', at The Croft Hall, Hungerford, on Tuesday, January 21, also at Tadley Community Centre, on Friday, January 17, Pamber Heath Village Hall on Saturday, January 18, and Great Shefford Village Hall, on Sunday, January 19

The Croft Hall, Hungerford, is not a place you automatically associate with groundbreaking scientific theories. However if you'd seen the Proteus production of 'Around The World In 80 Days' you would have believed that, contrary to popular belief, planet Earth actually consists of little more than two flats, a painted arch and a pair of curtains. This company does not claim to be 'the changing shape of theatre' for nothing.

Take the Jules Verne novel, adapted by Deborah Shaw, set it in an artfully-created Flea Circus run by Mr and Mrs Barnet, add Mavis the down-trodden stage hand and a runaway bank robber and all you need are two blood-sucking insects in the starring roles and you are away. Or so the story goes. Until the fleas escape (oh no!) into the audience!

Thankfully actors Julian Eardley, Andrea Sadler, Nisha Dassyne and Tim Machin stood in for the errant fleas at the last minute and the show went on. And how. Through Paris, to Egypt, across India and the shark-infested China Sea to Japan en route to the United States and out the other side in a mad transatlantic dash to beat the 80-day deadline by mere seconds.

Everything they ever teach about this crazy profession was there. Music, movement, mime, puppetry, balloon sculpture, acting, of course, a clothes horse and even an elephant's trunk masquerading as one leg of a pair of men's trousers. Or was it the other way around? Either way this company gave us the trip of a lifetime with a style and panache that travel show presenters the world over could watch and learn from.

I believe I saw that elephant. I believe they actually flew in a hot-air balloon. I even believe that at one point I joined a lovely appreciative Hungerford audience and became a tomahawk-wielding Sioux Indian. More to the point I am firmly convinced, thanks to the Proteus company, that the real world consists of two flats, an arch and a pair of velvet curtains. The rest is illusion.