As her acclaimed premiere of Claudio Macor’s Different From the Others continues at the White Bear Theatre, director Jenny Eastop transfers her Mercurius revival of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days to Drayton Arms Theatre with a cast of recent Drama Studio graduates. She told us why she likes being in control. Time to get booking!
After dates at the Bunker Theatre in July, Around the World in 80 Days runs at Drayton Arms Theatre in west London from 12 to 23 November 2019.
London, 1872. Phileas Fogg wagers his fortune that he can travel around the world in 80 days. With only his trusty valet Passepartout and his stiff upper lip, Fogg battles everything 19th-century international travel can throw at him – triumphant successes and crushing defeats, peril, love and, ultimately, an awakening to all that the world can offer. But will he make it home in time?
Around the World in 80 Days stars Drama Studio London graduates Tuhin Chisti, Lily Demir, Sam Denia, Esha Dey, Honey Gabriel, Oliver Lintott, Conor Rivers and James Shaw.
Talking to… Jenny Eastop
Three-times Offie-nominated Best Director Jenny Eastop‘s recent productions for Mercurius Theatre, which she founded, include Mr Gillie and The Biograph Girl at the Finborough and Indebted to Chance and The Recruiting Officer at the Old Red Lion, and A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, The Devil is an Ass and The Alchemist at the Rose Playhouse. Beyond Mercurius, Eastop’s productions include the world premiere of Claudio Macor‘s Different From the Others, currently running at London’s White Bear Theatre.
What’s been your highlight with Different From the Others?
I was excited by the idea behind Different From the Others when Claudio Macor first talked to me about it and I loved the play when I read it. The whole experience has been an exciting journey, but the highlight has been seeing how moved the audiences have been by the story. It’s great to connect that deeply with audiences when you create a piece of theatre.
Why did you found Mercurius Theatre?
I set up Mercurius Theatre in 2012 because I was frustrated at not being able to convince companies to let me direct the plays I wanted to. Setting up my own company allowed me to do all the productions I’d been dying to and continue to be in control of what I did. Producing is very hard work, but I’ve been surprised by how much I love being the one making the decisions and taking the risks. Around the World in 80 Days is our 15th production in that time, including three transfers.
How did this revival of Around the World in 80 Days come about?
I directed Around the World in 80 Days for the graduating actors at Drama Studio London in July, and we got such a great response from audiences and had such fun doing it that we all decided on the last performance that we wanted to revive it and have the chance to do it again.
For those who might not know the Jules Verne story, what’s it about in a nutshell?
It’s the story of upright (and uptight) English gentleman Phileas Fogg in 1872 who wagers his fortune that he can travel around the world in 80 days. With his valet Passepartout, and various travelling companions he picks up on the way, he encounters all sorts of perils and adventures as the clock ticks and the chase becomes ever more frantic. It’s a highly inventive, hilarious romp as eight actors play over 50 different characters.
How did the show go down at the Bunker Theatre?
We had packed audiences at the Bunker and great feedback from everyone who found the story incredibly funny and imaginative with lovely, tender, touching moments as Fogg slowly loses his stiff upper lip. We only had the chance for four performances at The Bunker. We’re delighted we have a full run at the Drayton Arms so all the people who missed it can get to see it and we can share it with a wider audience.
Tell us about your cast.
We have a diverse and interesting cast of eight, all of whom have burst onto the acting stage with great energy. I always really enjoy working with Drama Studio trained actors as they’re brilliantly text-based with great imaginations and drive. The training is all delivered by working industry professionals so the actors are trained to be highly motivated and clear about their own process.
What’s been the biggest challenge & reward of staging this production?
The original rehearsals were some of the most enjoyable and also some of the most exhausting I’ve ever had. As a company, we had to constantly invent and create to move from boat to train to courthouse to Japanese circus to American prairie, for example, without ever letting the pace of the frantic chase drop. It was incredibly hard work to constantly push for ideas but also incredibly satisfying when ideas came together and the show took off. Repeating that with the same detail and accuracy whilst building on it has been a challenge, but it’s all coming together again.
What’s next for Mercurius?
The next project for Mercurius is a new musical. Mercurius has gone into co-production with writer Warner Brown and agent Caroline Underwood to commission US composer Joshua Schmidt for a brand-new project that is planned to be launched in 2020. We have a workshop of the piece next month, a brilliant script and a very exciting score.
Anything else you’d like to add?
It’s so exciting to return in this production of Around the World in 80 Days to the essence of what theatre is – a great story told through the invention and creativity of the cast using a trolley, bench, a couple of hat stands and a series of old battered suitcases that become every corner of the world.
Around the World in 80 Days runs from 12 to 23 November 2019 at Drayton Arms Theatre, 153 Old Brompton Rd, Kensington, London SW5 0LJ with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £14-16. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!