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Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Around the World with Nellie Bly

Shedlight Stories

Genre: Children's Theatre, Comedic, New Writing, Theatre

Venue: The Space Surgeon's Hall


Low Down

A fast paced and imaginative one-woman (and one-monkey) show that uses Bly’s own account to bring to life an incredible, little-known true story of a pioneering woman.

Using puppetry, audience interaction, and a host of colourful characters it tells the story of this courageous and driven young woman; to show the importance of self-reliance and self-belief in the face of adversity; and prove that adventure stories aren’t just for boys.


Around the World with Nellie Bly is programmed as Children’s Theatre. But, all the best stories for ‘children’ work on many levels and this show is definitely one of those. It is a delightful, historically accurate, tale that will appeal to children and adults alike.

As we enter the space, Nellie presents members of the audience with a number of essential items for her journey that she later retrieves as needed, delighted that someone has exactly the thing she needs. So, if you’d like to be helping Nellie get underway on her journey do sit near the front!

Nellie Bly was a journalist who set out to beat the Phileas Fogg’s record of circumnavigating the world in 80 days. And she did it, but her achievements go well beyond beating a fictional character on a journey back to where she started. She started her writing career with the Pittsburgh Dispatch (having written a repost to a column titled “What Girls Are Good For” in which the writer reported ‘that girls were principally for birthing children and keeping house’. She regularly caused waves in her reporting of the lives of working women, campaigning on divorce, working conditions and mental health care. Which seems to have raised a few hackles and got her moved to fashion, society and gardening. Moving to New York in 1887 she struggled to find work as no paper would take on a woman. Penniless after four months, she talked her way into the offices of Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper the New York World and took an undercover assignment for which she agreed to feign insanity to investigate reports of brutality and neglect at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. The result brought both reform and lasting fame for Bly (born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane). In 1888 she suggested to her editor that she attempt to turn the fictional journey by Phileas Fogg into fact for the first time and set off two days later.

Round the World with Nellie Bly takes us on a whirl wind trip starting in New York, travelling east until she arrived back in New York.

Written and performed by Katie Overstall and directed by Nell Thomas, the show is supported by a team who have paid a lot of attention to detail with original music and puppets that delighted the audience.

Overstall’s performance is pitch perfect, making the most of the tiny stage to create the places, scenarios and characters that she meets. Her accents never slip and she manages that delicate balance of addressing both children and adults without sounding patronising to either. Every character and moment is sharply drawn and clear, the puppets and props beautifully made and add variety to the story telling. If you don’t fall in love with the monkey, you are clearly quite heartless!

In this compact space she creates an entire world of boats, trains and rickshaws through character and a very simple set that provides a map for us to follow the journey. And there are plenty of opportunities for the audience to help the journey along with some participation.

It is a wonderful celebration of one woman’s achievement, made all the more remarkable for taking place in a time when being a woman often meant, as we have seen, a life of child bearing and domestic work.

This is a gallon, never mind quart, of a story poured very neatly and expertly into a pint pot. And she beats Phileas Fogg’s record by… well, you’ll have to go and see the show to find out by exactly how many days, hours and minutes!