13 December 2023
Bolton School’s joint production showcased an outstanding collaboration of pupils from Years 8 to 13 in a mesmerising performance of ‘Around the World in 80 Days.’ The cast, taking Laura Eason’s stage adaptation, skilfully interwove the classic narrative with the remarkable true story of Nellie Bly, the pioneering journalist who completed a global circumnavigation in an astounding 72 days.
Felicity Field delivered a captivating portrayal of Nellie Bly, interacting with Jules Verne, played by Mollie Grimshaw, in a meeting of adventurous minds. The ensemble cast featured a stellar lineup, including Theo Jones, Theo Michaelas, Jacob Little, Faaz Sajid, Daniel Linas, Thomas Sibley, Vince Parkinson, Saif Karim, and David Chow, who adeptly took on various roles as gentlemen of the Reform Club, global administrators and a judge. Stella Rojek, Amanda Rojek, Ellen McKay, Molly Grimshaw, Coco Jones, Thea Littlefair, Zoe Attive, Ila Stephenson and Eve Blackmore took the roles of news correspondents around the globe as well as other character pieces.
Jayden Luhar showcased versatility, playing Mr Naidu and Captain Speedy. Fletcher Mellor-Brook tackled the roles of Fogg’s first valet James, Colonel Stamp-Proctor, and even portrayed an elephant with assistance from Thea Littlefair and Liv Hextall. Liv, acting as a global tour guide, managed a plethora of hot air balloons, flags, rubber ducks, sailing equipment and flying goggles. She also fleetingly appeared as the Statue of Liberty. Coco Jones played Mrs Singh alongside her elephant, generously loaned from Theatre by the Lake, while Sam Entwistle took on the conniving Inspector Fix, who was determined to bring Fogg down, and also had a turn as Barnum. Ila Stephenson appeared as Captain Blossom Von Darius. Eve Blackmore portrayed Mrs Sinclair with grace, great comedy and heart; a feisty character whose insight and personality won Fogg’s dedication.
Tom Griffiths took on the role of Passepartout, Fogg’s replacement valet, playing the part with athleticism, acrobatics and warmth. Billy Burrows, in the lead role of Phileas Fogg, delivered a splendid character arc, transitioning from a comedically pompous and uptight gentleman to a worldly individual full of care for others and a spirit of adventure. The cast orchestrated breathtaking set-pieces against the clock, including regimented presentations of Fogg’s routines, gentlemen’s clubs interspersed with female journalists’ narrations, swimming the English Channel, traversing the Alps by train and crossing the snowy Great Plains by sledge.
The production also featured Japanese floating gardens, storms at sea and transcontinental train rides assailed by bandits. The final section of the play unfolded as a race against time, with lead roles Fogg, Passepartout, and Mrs Sinclair engaging in a montage of running and mistaken disappointment.
Head of Foundation, Philip Britton, lauded the show as ‘absolutely terrific’ with pace, action, great performances, and, of course, an elephant. The production, set in the round on a compass stage, incorporated films to introduce characters, convey travel, create atmosphere and infuse Jules Verne’s imaginative spirit into the narrative.
Lighting and sound, skilfully operated by Leon Deakin, heightened the urgency of the play as it raced along at a pace of knots. Special thanks are extended to the Parents’ Association, Friends of Bolton School, the Estates Team, Mr Kyle for set construction and prop delivery, visiting theatre-makers Collette Murray and Ruth Allison, and staff members who supported front-of-house activities. The show, a thoroughly delightful experience, showcased not only the cast’s exceptional talent but also their ability to be generous collaborators, ingenious problem solvers, inventive theatre-makers and gifted performers. As one Sixth Former aptly expressed, ‘We built a new family together; it is an experience I will never forget.’