Around the world in 80 days drama production

On 3rd and 4th December 2019, drama students from Years 8 and 9 travelled back to Victorian times and voyaged around the globe (…or in our case, the main hall!) in just 80 days (an evening!) in an adaptation of the 1872 adventure novel ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ written by Jules Verne.

The story begins in London, where Phileas Fogg – a wealthy Victorian gentleman and member of the reform club reads a newspaper article stating that it is possible to voyage around the world in 80 days. In a bid to prove this to his to his fellow club members, Fogg wages half of his life’s fortune of £20,000 that he and his newly appointed French valet Passerpartout can do just that!

The production saw the cast set out on a dazzling escapade that took them through the misty valleys of London to the exotic subcontinent and on to the Wild West as they raced against the clock on a dizzying succession of trains, steamers, a wind-propelled sledge and an elephant!

But it’s not all plain sailing for Mr Fogg… a case of mistaken identity in Egypt means that he is unable to secure a warrant and ends up being accompanied to Bombay on a steamer by a Scotland Yard detective.  After reaching India, they take a train from Bombay to Calcutta. On this journey Fogg realises that there was a mistake in the original article and a stretch of railway track had not yet been built. There is only one way forward – by elephant! With the elephant purchased and a guide hired, the journey continues.

Whilst in India they meet a young woman called Aouda who is in trouble so they decide to rescue her and take her with them. The journey continues but not without delay, Fogg misses his connection and has now been separated from his trusty sidekick Passerpartou.

Eventually reunited, the four board a paddle-steamer called the General Grant, taking them across the Pacific to San Francisco.

In a race against time, the companions eventually arrive in Ireland and take the train to Dublin and before catching a ferry to Liverpool. By this point, they are still in time to reach London before the deadline. Once on English soil, Detective Fix produces a warrant and arrests Fogg. A short time later, the misunderstanding is cleared up – the actual robber, an individual named James Strand, had been caught three days earlier in Edinburgh. However, Fogg has missed the train and arrives in London five minutes late, certain he has lost the wager.

The following day Fogg apologises to Aouda for bringing her with him, since he now has to live in poverty and cannot support her. Aouda confesses that she loves him and asks him to marry her. As Passepartout notifies a minister, he learns that he is mistaken in the date – it is not 22 December, but instead 21 December. Because the party had travelled eastward, their days were shortened by four minutes for each of the 360 degrees of longitude they crossed; thus, although they had experienced the same amount of time abroad as people had experienced in London, they had seen 80 sunrises and sunsets while London had seen only 79.

Passepartout informs Fogg of his mistake, and Fogg hurries to the Reform Club just in time to meet his deadline and win the wager. Having spent almost £19,000 of his travel money during the journey, he divides the remainder between Passepartout and Fix and marries Aouda.

After the production we caught up with Sueda in Year 9 to talk about playing the lead role…
Playing Mr Fogg was a personal challenge for me, as he was a sort of character that I usually don’t go for. In some ways I could relate to him, and other times I had to get to know him. He was a man of no emotions and nearer to the end he found them. He realised that money can’t buy him happiness- it was love and friendship. The performance was an absolute blast! The whole cast working together; it brought a real sense of community and friendship in its own way, that I will never forget!

Women of Troy at Victoria Baths

It is known that the first appearances of Theatre in history occurs in Ancient Greece through the Greek Chorus, where actors would use nothing but their own skills to teach their audiences about the gods at festivals and other performances. Year 10 have been reflecting this recently in their scripted work in which they, in groups, devised work using extracts from `The Women of Troy` by Euripides.

The tragedy details the events unravelling in Troy after the end of the Trojan War when all the men had been slaughtered by the Greek soldiers. Following the stories of the women left behind as they wait for news of their fate, the play introduces the audiences to the lives of three women in particular: Hecuba, Queen of Troy; Cassandra, Hecuba’s daughter who has the gift of the prophecy but has been driven mad by it; and Andromache, Hecuba’s daughter in law who’s husband and son are murdered.

The students’ work was inspired by practitioner Stephen Berkoff who was greatly influenced by the conventions of the Greek chorus, using synchronised movement and choral speaking techniques to create unusual, grotesque images for the audience, forcing them to see the dark sides of reality – rather fitting for the subject of their scripts.

In contrast to their normal performances however, this year, Year 10 were invited to perform their pieces at Victoria Baths, as part of their `Weekend of Words`. They arrived in costume on Sunday 9th June, accompanied by a selection of ropes, frames and boxes needed for their props, and immediately got to rehearsing for the first time in their performance space for the day: the Turkish Restroom. They started performing at noon, going in series through the various groups, acting in front of the Baths’ marvellous stained-glass windows as visitors wandered in and out as they toured the events, often staying to watch. After performing each piece once, the students and teachers split off with their families to go and see the rest of the events.

Year 10 also performed their extracts at 7 in an evening performance at the school to families. Along with their previous scripts, they collaborated, all of them in one single piece – the play was adapted by Don Taylor and he wrote a post-script in response to it in which he expressed his feelings of how all that happened in Troy was not a single occurrence but something that has been and will be repeated again and again in any time, any place. In one line, at the very end, he says “knowing their next reunion is pencilled, only who will destroy is still uncertain, and what particular Troy”. The evening was overall a massive success – well done and congratulations to all performers and a special thanks to Mrs Ryan and Mrs Marler for their help and support.