BBC Radio 7, 7-28 February 2010
This was a fascinating adaptation, which not only Verne's classic novel into a picaresque narrative, in which Phileas Fogg (Leslie Phillips) and his servant Passepartout (Yves Aubert) overcame all obstacles to fulfil their bet, but also had a lot to say about Victorian Englishness as well. Director Janet Whittaker presented the tale in tongue-in-cheek style, full of zany trumpets and odd sounds, with the actors speaking in funny foreign accents (Jim Broadbent's Fix being a good example) reminiscent of 'Allo 'Allo. This type of humour has been a favourite with the British for generations; it not only confirms their sense of superiority (they can speak English better than Johnny Foreigner), but it posits a colonalist world-view of life as a Great Game in which victories are achieved by a combination of pluck and native cunning.
This was certainly the case with Phillips' Phileas Fogg. The actor didn't really have to do much, other than reinvigorate his star image - forged many years ago in endless farcical comedies - of the oh-so-suave hero who never really loses his cool despite everything that might happen to him. Fogg fully believed that money could solve everything; and to a large extent it did, even though luck also played a part in helping him achieve his goal.
For older listeners, Around the World in Eighty Days immediately evokes memories of Michael Todd's 1956 film, in which David Niven and Cantinflas wandered through a narrative which quite literally had stars crawling out of every nook and cranny: Buster Keaton, Jack Lemmon, Robert Morley, Shirley MacLaine, Marlene Dietrich, George Raft and Frank Sinatra to name but a few. This radio adaptation was planned on a much smaller scale, but had far more to say about Victorian politics.