TILTED Wig are teaming up with York Theatre Royal for a nationwide tour of Around The World In 80 Days from February 2 to July 22 2023. Rehearsals will begin in York next Monday.
Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s story first toured all four corners of York in August 23 days in 2021, not in a hot-air balloon, but on a trailer, whose sides could be dropped down for the set to be built around, in the tradition of travelling players going from town to town.
Forster’s circus-themed production played four York playing fields – Carr Junior School, Copmanthorpe Primary School, Archbishop Holgate’s School and Joseph Rowntree School – followed by a last stop, back indoors, at the Theatre Royal, where Tilted Wig’s new tour of England, Scotland and Wales will open from February 2 to 4.
In Forster’s version, Verne’s original characters are transformed, embracing different modes of transport in the frantic race to travel around the world in 80 Days. Original cast member Eddie Mann will be joined by Alex Phelps, Katriona Brown, Wilson Benedito and Genevieve Sabherwal, who each multi-role as the rag-tag band of travelling circus performers embarks on a daring mission to recreate Phileas Fogg’s journey.
Phelps will play the determined Ringmaster and Fogg, having appeared in As You Like It for Shakespeare’s Globe/CBeebies, When Darkness Falls for Park Theatre and Hamlet for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre.
Actor and puppeteer Brown will be the Acrobat and Nellie Bly; Sabherwal, the Trick Rider and Aouda; Wilson Benedito, the Clown and Passepartout, and New Zealander Mann, the sharp-witted Knife Thrower and Detective Fix.
Writer-director Forster said in 2021: ““There was a risk that a show would have a stuffy gentlemen’s club, outdated feel to it because it’s a male-dominated story, so I thought, ‘how do we make it a play for today?’. That’s when I decided to put Nellie Bly’s story in there too.”
For the uninitiated, Nellie Bly was the pen name of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman, an American journalist, industrialist, inventor and charity worker, who made her own record-breaking trip around the world – and did so with more alacrity than the fictional Fogg.
“I read her book about going around the world: a beautiful piece of travel journalism with such lovely detail, and I thought, ‘maybe we should just do her story’, but then I decided, ‘no, let’s look at finding a form for a play that fits bit both stories in’,” Juliet said.
Move forward to 2023’s revival, and the director says: “I was amazed that we generally know more about Jules Verne’s fictional characters than we do about Nellie Bly. I knew I had to tell her story. I found that this approach allowed interesting themes to emerge around whose stories get told, whose stories dominate and who should stand aside to give space to the untold ones.”
Tour producer Tilted Wig Productions was formed in 2017 by Katherine Senior and Matthew Parish, who have more than 15 years of experience producing and touring plays throughout the UK, taking 20-plus productions on the road, such as Philip Meeks’s Murder, Margaret, and Me, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Picture Of Dorian Gray.
“Our shows now tour around some of the biggest theatres in the UK, yet our original ethos has always remained the same: whether Titled Wig are producing a classic play or a vibrant new adaptation, we always aim to inspire a bright and innovative creative team to take our stories UK-wide,” they say.
Juliet is joined in the production team by set designer Sara Perks; lighting designer Alexandra Stafford; composer and sound designer Ed Gray; movement director Asha Jennings-Grant and fight director Jonathan Holby.
Tilted Wig and York Theatre Royal present Around The World In 80 Days at York Theatre Royal on February 2, 2pm and 7.30pm, February 3, 7.30pm, and February 4, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Also: Cast, Doncaster, July 5 to 8; castdoncaster.com. Age guidance: seven plus.
REHEARSALS have begun today for Tilted Wig and York Theatre Royal’s six-month tour of Around The World In 80 Days.
Gathering for the first time were Wilson Benedito, left, Katrina Brown, Genevieve Sabherwal and Alex Phelps. Missing was fifth cast member memberEddie Mann, who will join rehearsals later. Picture by Anthony Robling.