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Watermill Young Company - Around the World in 80 Days

6th to 10th May 2009.

This is from the Newbury Weekly News.

Full speed ahead

Youth theatre director makes her mark in adventurous quest

The Watermill Youth Group: Around the World in 80 Days, at The Watermill, from Wednesday, May 6 to Sunday, May 10

The Watermill's senior and mix youth theatres' production of Around The World In 80 Days was skilfully retold by this young, talented company in an energetic full-throttle performance. Directed with aplomb by Beth Flintoff, in her debut role, this was a highly inventive production.

Adapted from the Jules Verne book by Robin Belfield, this version kept very close to the original story. Phileas Fogg, splendidly played by Jak Ford-Lane, bet half his fortune with members of the Reform Club that he could travel around the world in 80 days or less.

He embarked on this adventurous quest with his valet Passepartout, a stunning performance from Elsa Leuty, whose French accent would have been at home in the television series 'Allo 'Allo.

Christopher Evans was the determined detective Inspector Fix who stoically followed Fogg, believing him to be a bank robber. The large ensemble, too many to name, played a myriad of roles with zest and commitment.

Their journey took them to France and then a balloon flight to Egypt, which was cleverly staged. The globetrotting story continued in India with a speeding train precariously trying to cross a collapsing bridge, with some hilarious results. Matt Courtney was excellent as Sir Francis Cromarty, who gave a captivating performance with a lovely upper-class accent.

The arrival of an elephant on stage was a great piece of comic invention as the intrepid explorers crossed India. Their journey was interrupted as they rescued Aouda - a touching performance by Yasmeen Sheperia - from being sacrificed on a funeral pyre. The audience went outside to the garden to witness the dramatic rescue.

Other adventures included a sled ride over ice and a full blown Indian attack in America and, finally, a sea voyage back to Liverpool during which the ship's superstructure was used as fuel.

Fogg finally made it back to England believing that he had lost his bet, but forgot that he had gained a day since he was travelling East and made it back to the Reform Club with seconds to spare.

James Lewis' multi-level set and Nick Flintoff 's dramatic lighting perfectly complemented this hugely enjoyable play.