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Les Miserables – Joint Iona College and Lindisfarne College Production

I love a good high school production; the passion and earnestness of the youthful cast brings such excitement and vibrancy to the stage. On Wednesday night the Iona/Lindisfarne Colleges’ production of Les Misérables School Edition was a blast for the highly partisan audience and the cast.

Les Misérables the musical follows the life of Jean Valjean from a chain gang prisoner to successful businessman and the mayor of an impoverished working-class Parisian suburb in the early 1800s. It is a tale of hardship, revolutionary fervour, courage, love and redemption. Based on a story by Victor Hugo the fabulous songs are romantic and stirring and instantly recognisable.

The directors Lisa-Jane Easter and Kathy Atkin delivered a really professional production. Here was an amazing set and props, the lighting created a wonderful atmosphere and the movement of the large cast was seamless. Even the stage handlers were quick and discreet. The costumes were appropriate to the period and the characterisations were superb while the orchestra carried the tunes and rhythms and completed the whole. This was an ambitiously collaborative work and it showed.

Valjean is the hero of the show and it is his life journey that we follow, played by Oliver Howlett, his performance conveyed Valjean’s humanity and compassion; it is a very demanding role and he played it with dignity and maturity.

The entire two-hour show is a complex drama delivered in song. But its success lies in the understanding and interpretation of the roles, the performers bringing the complex whole to life with their acting, energy and pace.

For me the singing highlights were Eponine (Jess Burke) singing On My Own -she commanded the stage with a strong confident presence and singing voice and we sensed the grit of this love-crossed girl. Another poignant moment was A Heart Full of Love, the voices of Marius (Jason Tufuga), Cosette (Cathy Pearson) and Eponine beautifully harmonious. The softly melancholic young victim Fantine (Marla Beisell) sings the memorable I Dreamed a Dream as she despairs her fate and her tragedy unfolding.

Another special mention is John Black in his role as the stern, unrelenting policeman whose inflexible views about career criminality plague Valjean at many climactic moments in the play.

The night on the barricades was a memorable episode combining dramatic action, the superb barricade props strong enough to be clambered over by the revolutionary students and allowing the dying a safe collapse. In this scene Gavroche (Jack Barclay) the street urchin is shot, but until then the young actor playing his role did so with wonderful cocky humour.

This is a drama from beginning to end, with comedic relief provided by the delightfully villainous Monsieur and Madame Thenardier played by Luke Merwood and Isobelle Walker. They had their timing right, capturing their mischief hilariously.

However, all the performances were great and everyone deserves recognition, congratulations to all the cast and a great ‘well done’ to everyone involved.

Reviewed by Kay Bazzard