Les Miserables School Edition

Aug 24 2016 | By More

★★★☆☆    Spirited

The Famous Spiegeltent (Venue 87) 19-29 Aug 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

Well sung and staged with energy and economy, Captivate Theatre’s Les Miserables has considerable drive.

The School Edition of the musical, while a slightly shortened version of a show that seems to have run forever, is still a very difficult work to stage and to sing.

Les Miserables. Photo Captivate Theatre

Les Miserables. Photo Captivate Theatre

The subtle, uncluttered way it is presented here by director Sally Lyall is extremely effective – although the area of the Spiegeltent between most of the audience and the booths is overused, particularly since the huge audience makes getting around tricky.

The sprawling story, leading up to the 1832 Paris Uprising, can be difficult to follow; the nature of a sung-through musical, without any spoken exposition, only makes this worse. This is the major criticism that applies here – any newcomers to the story would find some things unclear.

The chorus numbers, while urgent and energetic, do not help in this regard, with the accents adopted by the cast muddying the waters. The same also applies to the otherwise excellent performances as the villainous Thenardiers by Eoin Mullan and Sally Cairns, with too many of the words being lost. This is unfortunate when the pair’s comic acting is so effective.

At times the male singers are straining at the limits of their ranges, while some of the featured female performers take the well-worn path to belting out the numbers, going for power and technique rather than emotional content.

dignity and pathos

These are only minor criticisms, however. Keir Ogilvy, as the central figure Jean Valjean, has a real dignity and pathos, and has an impressive falsetto register. Mark Scott, as Javert, the officer of the law who hunts him, has a particularly good solo on Stars. Samuel Stevenson is upright and convincing as the young revolutionary turned lover Marius; Seumas Cross is touchingly impressive as the young street urchin Gavroche.

Anna Macleod’s Eponine provides the production’s emotional high point with On My Own, putting the content of the song first. Kara Chalmers has grace and charm as the doomed Fantine, while Megan Gardiner has a wide-eyed eagerness as the young Cosette that works very well.

The rest of the cast provide sterling back up in the variety of smaller roles, aided by some particularly good costumes. A huge, 15-strong band romp through the score with stamina and energy.

Demands of time mean that it seems rushed; the interval, in particular, is far too short for the audience when the necessary offices are some distance from the Spiegeltent. Overall, however, the energy and skill on display are exemplary.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including one 5 minute interval
The Famous Spiegeltent (Venue 87), St Andrew Square, EH2 1AF
Friday 19 – Monday 29 August 2016
Daily at 2.00 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/les-miserables-school-edition
Company website: http://www.captivatetheatre.com
Facebook: captivatetheatre


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