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THEATRE REVIEW: Les Misérables, Perth, 7 Jan 2015

| 8 January 2015 | Reply

THEATRE REVIEW: Les Misérables, Perth, 7 Jan 2015
Crown Theatre, Perth, Western Australia – Wednesday 7 January, 2015
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Les Miserables Crown theatre 2015

35 years after its original French language production, one could be forgiven for thinking that there was little life left to be breathed into Les Misérables. After all, this story of oppression and rebellion was originally published as a novel in 1862, and since the musicals debut in 1980 has become one of the most-performed and most famous theatre shows around the world, even spawning a star-studded Hollywood movie adaptation in 2012.

With an imposing roster of characters and intertwining subplots, Les Misérables really does have it all: there’s love – both unrequited and realised, heartbreaking sadness and loss, corruption and oppression, prostitution and skulduggery, uprising, death and even a street battle on the eve of the Paris Uprising of June 1832.

Hugo’s novel also serves as an allegorical tale that shows how a corrupt and brutal ruling class can turn good people bad by giving them no options: a problem that still rings true in many sections of many societies globally, almost two hundred years later.

In a nutshell, Les Misérables concerns itself with Jean Valjean (Simon Gleeson), a good man who is convicted for stealing a loaf of bread to save his nephew from death. Imprisoned for 19 years – breaking a butterfly on a wheel if ever there was such a thing – he is finally released but forced to wear a badge identifying himself as a convict on probation, and finds it impossible to secure work. Valjean skips probation and changes his identity, eventually becoming a successful businessman and mayor of his town.

Meanwhile, the brutal Inspector Javert (Hayden Tee) becomes obsessed with catching the vanished Valjean. The two cross paths eight years later, when Valjean discovers a woman his foreman dismissed from his employ, Fantine (Patrice Tipoki), forced into prostitution and in trouble with the law herself after standing up to an abusive customer who beats her.

On her death bed she confesses her sorry tale to Valjean, who swears to adopt her daughter Cosette as his own, and must defeat Javert in a fight in order to escape and save the child.

Some years later, with Cosette (Emily Langridge) on the cusp of adulthood, Javert again discovers Valjean’s new identity, just as the student uprising boils over into rebellious street battle.

This interpretation of Cameron MacKintosh’s English language version of the musical is a stunner from start to finish, fast paced and full of the ebb and flow that makes great theatre, with razor sharp direction from Laurence Connor.

The set design (Matt Kinley) is magnificently fluid, props and entire streets and bridges and sewer tunnels sliding seamlessly from scene to scene and, indeed, year to year as the show progresses.

All the leads turn in powerful and charismatic performances, none better than Tee’s brutal and pig-headed, though conflicted, symbol of authority Javert. Lara Mulcahy and Trevor Ashley both turn in hilarious slapstick performances as the thieving innkeeper couple who sell Cosettte to Valjean, with a wonderful rendition of Master Of The House, in the finest risqué British Music Hall tradition.

The enduring beauty of Les Mis lies in seeing these basically good people, all but crushed by a corrupt system, rise up figuratively and literally against adversity in both their personal lives and in the society in which they dwell. Heartbreaking in parts, hilarious in others, the standing ovation Les Mis 2015 received from most of the house is proof that the story remains relevant today, and the popularity of this show will resist fading for years to come.

Category: Movie & Theatre Reviews

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