Angie Johnson on a production of the Jules Verne classic by Oxfordshire Theatre Company and Chipping Norton Theatre

Oxfordshire Theatre Comp-any’s long track record of touring excellent theatre across our county pooled with The Theatre’s growing reputat-ion as a producing house is a perfect partnership for their project of Around the World in 80 Days. After a residence at Chipping Norton it will tour to venues across Oxfordshire and then further afield across the UK until the end of November. John Terry, The Theatre’s artistic director since 2008, sai: “We have been working closely with the trustees of OTC so that their huge legacy in community theatre can progress into the future.”

He adds: ‘Their work has been so important to the communities they serve that it’s vital it continues. We plan to use their expertise and infra-structure to enable us to take shows we produce here at The Theatre out into village halls and other venues. It is very exciting and we are hoping to be able to do this once a year — and maybe tour our pantomime as well.”

I put to Terry, who is also directing this production, that one of their biggest challenges is how to maintain the high production standards of their in-house shows with the practicalities of a fast-moving tour to many different venues. He agrees: “Yes it takes a lot of thinking about, but that’s all part of the fun. Everywhere we visit is unique so we need a show that is flexible, simple to get in and out, but full of energy and complexity to keep the audience engaged.”

It’s heartening to hear that the company are so committed to this important yet undeniably huge task, but what is the attraction for them personally?

Terry explains: “Village halls are just so different — there’s more of a party atmosphere than in a theatre.” Richard Hurst adds: “Everyone mucks in and we become like one big family on the road, and being a friendly and outgoing company helps us to provide a good experience.”

But there is more to creating the magic than goodwill, Hurst tells me.

“The creative team have to really trust each other and work together. This has been crucial in constructing our show.” He chuckles as he adds: “But it really has been so much fun. In rehearsals we are running round with all sorts of props — creating cars, boats, trains out of our bodies. And we know that the audiences will bring along their imaginations and feel really involved.”

It is no wonder that they have had such busy rehearsals — there is a lot to fit in the show as it follows Fogg’s attempt to circumnavigate the world in record time, travelling by any means possible, with the added complication that he is wrongly suspected of bank robbery and being pursued by Scotland Yard’s unstoppable Inspector Fix. With so many practical const-raints, I ask Terry why he chose to do such an epic story. “That’s exactly why we are doing it. It is a big story but the restrictions we are under add to the inventiveness we bring to it. We involve the audience — we give them surprises and discove-ies and they become a part of it.”

“On top of that,” he adds, “the Jules Verne story is in itself anarchic and chaotic, so it’s suitable for our type of approach.

“The adaptation we have by Toby Hulse is very funny and Alex Marker’s stage designs are full of inventive tricks and hideaways. It is perfect for audiences of all ages so ideally suited for a whole comm- unity to come along to enjoy as an event.”

Around the World in 80 Days promises to be a dashing adventure all round.

Around the World in 80 Days
The Theatre, Chipping Norton
September 19-28
Tickets: Call 01608 642350 or visit