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ACT – Les Miserables

 

I just wish I was asked to do an official review of ACT productions, as they would certainly rank in the top echelons for appreciation and awards!  However, I have to content myself with my personal thoughts!


Like the majority of people I spoke to I was a little wary of what a spoken version of Les Mis might bring – but the adaptation of Victor Hugo’s book by Alan Clarke went a long way to explaining a lot of things that the musical glosses over – and as a piece in its own right stood out as a major triumph.


The play was long, but because it was gripping, full of interest and super lighting effects from the ever-imaginative Dave Houghton assisted by Jacob Shooter, we didn’t notice the passage of time, which is testament in itself to a good production.  Even John, who’s not that keen on plays as rule, had his interest held from start to finish!


Mr Clarke is amazing in his work ethic, he admits that this is the culmination of a two year project – writing the adaptation, then bringing it to the theatre.  His insight and unwavering vision is always first class, and whilst I am not a fan of the writer/Director also playing a main part, Alan seemed to pull this off without any detriment to the production, although I’m sure he relied heavily on his assistants – Megan Clarke and Miranda Larson.


It was a large cast with everyone creating good characters, and the cast managing the scene changes, so it all ran seamlessly, and as I said to Alan afterwards, I thoroughly approved of his disposal methods for all the dead bodies – so often one sees the dead person get up and walk off the stage – but not in an ACT production!  


For a small stage and large cast everything seemed to work incredibly well.  The barricade scene was particularly enthralling and riveting, all managed by the lighting and sound effects, with the final part showing Gavroche’s dead body really poignant.


Alan played Jean Valjean with great understanding of the type of man he was – showing the progression from the man who emerged from 19 years in prison to a respected figure in the community. Such an empathetic performance with so many expressive qualities, and good relationships both familial and antagonistic.


Megan Clark played a heart-wrenching Fantine – with heart and conviction, the only small thing was the wig – it was just too tidy for a woman of her type in that era – it needed a bit of messing about – the replacement when she had her hair cut off was fine!


The junior members of the cast playing the young Cosette, Eponine and Gavroche, were all excellent – rising to the performance levels of the adult cast, and making their mark.  Gavroche is a lovely part for a young lad, in that he has to be unfailingly cheerful, but can also join in the revolution, with the lure of guns and fighting – Harry Collins did a great job.


There were no end of young men – a triumph in itself – who all made their parts their own – I particularly liked the evilness of the Foreman from Adam Butcher, and James Clarke as Enjolras.  Anthony Bird gave us a super portrayal of Marius, and looked very different with his hair swept back – so right for the part.  His relationship with Grace Reinhold-Gittins, who played a lovely bright and charming Cosette, was touching and real.


The Thenardiers, played by Miranda Larson and Martyn Jolly were very evil – and created  good humour which lightened some of the darker situations, whilst the narrators were a good choice, as they integrated well and gave us such a variety of different voices and expression, creating different dimensions and voice levels which made the narrative interesting, as it could easily have become very boring if a single person had been used, however experienced!


James Trapp created an evil Javert, very confident with his assumptions, but gradually coming to doubt himself at the end. His death scene was very well-managed.


Alistair Brown was a very kindly Monseigneur, a good portrayal, we could sense the steel but compassion behind his decisions. Alistair also had the part of Marius’s grandfather, which called upon his more ascerbic qualities.  Alistair can achieve so much with a stillness of performance, but great intent.


A quick mention for Richard Garrett, a small part but a very accomplished portrayal.


There is so much more I could write, but suffice to say, I was mightily impressed and enthralled by a superb production and so many excellent portrayals.


Act

LES MISERABLES” date: 29th July 2015

Little Theatre, Dunstable

Directed by: Alan Clarke

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