Kathryn Greenaway from Montreal Gazette talks to actor Mike Hughes about upcoming show Around the World in 80 Days: “It’s exciting to see the audience catching on to the pacing and going with you on (Fogg’s) thrilling quest” – Mike Hughes
Read on Montreal Gazette’s website: Around the World in 80 Days is theatre done at a fast clip
The fast-paced production Around the World in 80 Days opens at Hudson Village Theatre, Aug. 9.
Actor Mike Hughes is no stranger to switching roles in the blink of an eye. The John Abbott College theatre graduate who went on to study physical theatre at École Internationale de Théàtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris has made a career of slipping in and out of characters with quicksilver precision.
Hughes plays Detective Fix, among other roles, in the Toby Hulse theatre adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days, which opens at the Hudson Village Theatre, Aug. 9.
“The play moves along at quick a clip,” Hughes said. “The audience adapts to (the pacing) in first few minutes and then things can’t happen fast enough.”
Over time, the 1873 novel about a wealthy British man named Phileas Fogg betting $20,000 pounds that he can travel around the world in 80 days has been adapted for radio, film, television and theatre.
Along with Hughes, the Hudson production features Chimwemwe Miller as Fogg and Danielle Desormeaux as Fogg’s valet Passepartout.
Detective Fix is on the hunt for Fogg because he suspects Fogg is a bank robber.
When asked exactly how many roles he takes on during the play, Hughes confessed to losing count guessing “around seven or eight?”
Director Mike Payette collaborated with a design team, including sound designer Rob Denton and lighting designer Michel Charbonneau, to render the sights, sounds and challenges of world travel in Victorian England.
Set designer Sabrina Miller gathered and stacked old suitcases to either be manipulated by the actors to portray various modes of travel or to be opened to reveal objects important to the telling of the story.
“Worlds and characters seem to just explode out of the suitcases,” Hughes said. “It’s fun and it’s playful.”
The story was written a long time ago and its age is exposed through old-fashioned attitudes.
Acceptable behaviour for the British elite in the 1800s, especially towards those living differently or in distant ports of call, ring resoundingly archaic in 2017, but the script has not been updated to mirror today’s attitudes. Instead, Payette directed the actors to avoid slapstick and stereotypical portrayals.
Hughes played sports growing up and after enrolling in John Abbott’s theatre program found himself drawn to the more physical type of theatre. From the beginning, he drew a parallel between working as a team as an athlete and the teamwork necessary to create cohesive theatre.
After graduating, he co-founded the critically acclaimed Montreal indie-theatre company Gravy Bath Productions and honed his quick-thinking theatrical skills with the Toronto-based improv troupe Uncalled For. He was last seen at the Hudson Village Theatre performing multiple roles in the 2015 Theatre Lac-Brome/Hudson Village Theatre co-production 39 Steps.
Hughes is delighted to be once again performing within the intimate confines of the Hudson Village Theatre after spending four years, off and on, touring as one half of a clown duo in Cirque du Soleil’s production Dralion. Touring with the circus meant performing in vast spaces where “it was hard to get a sense of where the story was landing.”
Around the World in 80 Days is a Hudson Village Theatre and Theatre Lac-Brome co-production in association with Geordie Productions. It just completed a six-performance run at Theatre Lac-Brome and will opens at D.B. Clarke Theatre as part of Geordie’s main stage season, April 20, 2018.
“In an intimate space, theatre is so alive,” Hughes said. “It’s exciting to see the audience catching on to the pacing and going with you on (Fogg’s) thrilling quest. The audience is a gift, teaching us so much, like when we have to speed up and when we have to slow down.”
The Hudson run of Around the World in 80 Days finishes just as the academic year begins to gear up which means Hughes switches gears and returns to Dawson College where he has been teaching theatre since 2014.
“I absolutely love the teaching,” he said. “And I absolutely love performing.”
Around the World in 80 Days is at the Hudson Village Theatre, 28 Wharf Rd., Aug. 9 to 27. Tickets cost $33 plus tax and service charge and are available at the box office, 450-458-5361, by emailing email@example.com or online at www.villagetheatre.ca.