It really says something about the year we’ve had when a 10-minute car ride from home to the village of Copmanthorpe has an air of excitement about it. But there was a definite sense of excitement as we packed up the car with blankets, snacks and the odd emergency wet-weather item and headed to the exotic climes of Copmanthorpe Primary School to watch York Theatre Royal’s summer show, Around the World in 80 Days.
First things first: if this is a York Theatre Royal production, why did we find ourselves in the middle of a school field? Well, they’ve decided to take this show about travelling on a journey of its own, popping up at outdoor venues across York. For those who prefer their shows staged inside bricks and mortar, the run does end with a few performances at the theatre itself. But having watched it outside, we’d definitely recommend it as a family-friendly experience. Admittedly we were lucky with the weather, but we enjoyed being outside. Our kids enjoyed it being more relaxed, especially as they could run off to the loo without disturbing anyone, and they could roll around on the grass if they liked. It also felt incredibly covid-secure, so there were no concerns on that front either.
Seating isn’t provided, so we stretched out on a couple of picnic blankets right at the front by the stage, and we were closer than we’ve ever been to the action – it really felt as though we were part of the adventure. And what an adventure it is: based on the Jules Verne novel, this is a joyful, colourful retelling of the infamous tale of Phileas Fogg and his madcap plan to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days, with some acrobatics and circus antics thrown in for good measure. Historical inaccuracies from the original text are corrected, and the compelling real-life tale of Nellie Bly, a travel writer who really did travel the world solo in 1889, is cleverly interwoven. Her grit and determination are really inspiring, and I’ve got a feeling that our girls (and boy) will remember her tale for some time. I just hope that they don’t also ask if they can have a pet monkey like her too.
It’s clear that a huge amount of time, love, and effort has gone into Around the World in 80 Days: the cast is, without exception, excellent, the set is brilliant in its colourful simplicity and the story whips along at such a pace that all but the youngest children will be carried along for the ride. The suggested age range is 7+, but of our three (11, 8 and 6), it was the youngest who enjoyed it most. While her passport stays in the drawer for another year (and it’s an understatement to say that she’s upset about that), she got to imagine travelling to Egypt, Singapore, New York and India, watched an elephant being ridden (sort of), saw a cannon being fired (kind of) and laughed her head off at the appearance of Andrew Speedy from Hull, a latecomer of a character but so funny. Even the odd dark cloud didn’t dampen the energy on stage. This is a sunshiny show to brighten a slightly strange summer, and it runs until the end of August, so catch it if you can.
Top tips – If you’re going to an outdoor performance, get there early if you want to be near the front, and take camping chairs rather than blankets if you want to be comfortable! We were okay on blankets but the children were starting to get fidgety towards the end. Take snacks!