Around the World in 80 Days (Cambridge)

NIE’s 2011 Christmas show for the Cambridge Junction was “Hansel and Gretel”. That worked splendidly.

Carly David, Keshini Misha, Stefanie Mueller & Martin Bonger
Carly David, Keshini Misha, Stefanie Mueller & Martin Bonger
© Claire Haigh

Unfortunately, Around the World in 80 Days doesn't really pick up until the second half. For the first part of the show it gives the impression of being too clever for its own good, rather like an undergraduate sketch which revels in its own knowingness rather than engage and involve the audience.

Children can be ruthless critics, and far too many seemed bored to the "I want to go home" point. The actual staging by director Alex Byrne and designer Stefanie Mueller is good, once it picks up momentum, with the right degree of flexibility.

The six-person cast move bits of scenery, play instruments and switch roles easily enough. Martin Bonger's Phineas Fogg has the correct laconic air while Mueller's Passepartout fidgets around him. Keshini Misha is Aouda, the Hindu widow saved from forced suttee, who ends up by marrying Fogg.

He is chased throughout by Ben Frinton's Inspector Fix, in hot pursuit of a bank robber. Carly Davis and Kieran Edwards play the gallery of men our travellers encounter as well as the club members involved in the original wager. It works, I suppose, on its own terms, but the magic is lacking.

Around the World in 80 Days runs at the Cmbridge Junction until 4 January.