Forget those TV travel shows, Polly Lister is your ultimate adventurer this festive season.

For Polly is starring as Lady Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days, a classic tale being given a twist at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre.

Messenger Newspapers: Polly Lister in Around the World in 80 Days (Picture: Pamela Raith)

“I was wondering then what the twist was,” she laughed, “But then it’s me, a woman playing Phileas.”

H G Wells enduring story has been given a whole new lease of life as the Octagon’s festive production sees Lady Phileas accept the challenge from boorish newspaper owner Sit John Sullivan to travel round the world and arrive back in London by Christmas Eve to win a £50,000 bet.

Cad that he is, Sullivan tries every dirty trick he can think off to delay the intrepid explorer and her butler Passepartout.

“It’s far from being a pantomime,” said Polly, “but it is every bit as fun as a panto. It’s such a good story - full of jeopardy, heart and emotion. There’s most definitely a really strong narrative and you really get to invest in the characters as their journey takes them around the world.

Read our review of the show

“It’s a really epic show which fits in with the festive season.”

This musical version - adapted for the stage by Kate Ferguson and Susannah Pearse, the writers who penned the Octagon’s 2022 festive production A Christmas Carol and 2019’s Treasure Island -is in Polly’s words ‘a riot’ making it the perfect show for all ages.

“If it is your first time in a theatre, you will absolutely see that theatre is fun,” said Polly. “You will be told a really good story that is going to affect you emotionally and which takes you on a ride, then the music just wraps itself around you.

“If anyone is coming to the theatre for the first time, I think it is the perfect show.”

The action is frenetic as the days countdown and Lady Phileas traverses the glove by plane, boat, rail and a variety of more unusual forms of transport.

Messenger Newspapers: Polly Lister as Lady Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days
                                                                                                                   (Picture: Pamela Raith)

“While spectacle is really important and this play has it in abundance,” said Polly, “I think the key to enjoyment is investment in the story; we want you to follow the story and if you invest in the characters you are going to stay with that story to the end.”

As well as the colour, spectacle and song, Around the World in 80 Days also has a message for the audience.

“If you come away with anything, I’d say it’s ‘say yes to adventures’,” said Polly. “You should meet challenges head on, meet them with generosity and gusto and if you can’t see a way around a problem, go through it.

“It’s a really good allegory about solving problems on the hoof without letting them scare you.”

The cast of six put so much into the show, there is no time for a breather for any of them.

“I only have one character to play and that’s demanding enough,” said Polly. “Lady Phileas wholeheartedly embraces everything that’s thrown at her.

“But the other guys in the cast play so many different characters - it’s really a physical challenge for them.”

Polly is delighted to be returning to the Octagon. She has previously appeared at the theatre in the Hound of the Baskervilles and One Man, Two Guvnors.

“It’s a beautiful theatre, a phenomenal space,” she said. “It always feels much bigger when you are in the audience than when you are a performer. Then it has the capacity for offering lots of different variations of stage configurations

“Even though I’ve been here before, this is the first time I’ve been here in a show which is fully ‘in the round’. The whole design of the piece embraces that – it’s great.”

Messenger Newspapers: Polly Lister in Around the World in 80 Days (Picture: Pamela Raith)

Having the audience surrounding the performers, adds an extra challenge.

“You have to be mindful of telling story in way everyone can understand no matter where they are in the theatre,” said Polly. “It’s a really good lesson in learning that the back of you is equally important as the front and that you can equally convey the sentiment you are wanting to put across not just with your face, but with your full body.”

With Around the World in 80 Days running throughout the Christmas season - it ends on January 6 - Polly has been able to spend time at home with her family when she’s not on stage.

“I adore Christmas,” she said. “My favourite part is Christmas Eve when all the presents have been bought and you can switch off and just be with the people you love and care for,” she said.

“I love all the lights - I think I must have been a moth in another life,” she laughed, “but I have them all over the house.

“To be in a show like this over the festive season is perfect. A Christmas show should be entertaining and give everyone a warm glow. If it doesn’t do that you are at the wrong one!

“But this has all that plus all the thrill and adventure of a really good story and it’s a riot. It’s so knockabout that although there are only six of us, it feels like a cast of 30.

“And without spoiling anything it has a warm glow and leaves you feeling that everything is right with the world and that kindness prevails

“What more could you ask for?”

Around the World in 80 Days runs until Saturday, January 6. Details from