A theatre review of Les Miserables Essay
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We went to see a performance of Les Miserables on Thursday 19th October 2000, which was directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caid and written by Victor Hugo and was staged at the Palace Theatre. Brief The performance is set in France after the French revolution, a woman had given birth to a young girl out of wedlock which was unacceptable at the time. She sends her daughter to live with a married couple with a daughter of similar age.
The mother sends every last bit of money she gets to the family looking after her daughter to pay for her upbringing.
At one point she gets so desperate for money that she turns to prostitution and sells her teeth and hair for money. Whilst all the above is happening a very strong and young man is in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister. He broke his bail because he was fed up of being just a number and starts a new life under his original name Jean Valjean.
He stayed in a church over night and the bishop gave him a meal and a place to sleep, in the night Jean Valjean stole a pair of silver candle sticks and run off with them. The police brought him back and confronted the bishop, but to everyone’s surprise the bishop said that he gave the silver to Valjean. After the police left the bishop told Valjean to keep the sticks and use them to start a new life. A young dying woman tells him about her daughter and where she is staying. He makes a pledge to find her daughter and bring her up as his own.
He goes and finds her and pays the family she is staying with so he can take her away. Jean Valjean becomes a mayor of a town even though he is still on the run from the police. One policeman catches on and realises that he is an exconvict that has broken his bail and tries to find a way to take him back to prison. The students of the village he is in charge of starts a rebellion and builds barricades to protest against the French army. Jean Valjean’s daughter falls in love with a man that goes into the barricades.
Jean Valjean also goes into the barricades, cossets (the girl that he has raised) boyfriend gets shot. Jean Valjean carries him out of the barricades and through the sewers, he saves his life. The main issues of the performance where poverty, rebellion, death and love because the play was set in times of great poverty, the town goes into the barricades and makes a stand for what they believe in. The whole plot starts when Cossets mother dies and Jean Valjean pledges to look after his daughter and love her like his own.
The performance is set in France in the early 1830’s, the French government at the time didn’t rally care about the lower class citizens and didn’t put a lot of money into the community, this is when people started to make a stand for their rights. The director tried and succeeded to produce a very dark and unhappy time of life. Most of the poorer people where all dressed in dark and dingy colours which was a lot like the backgrounds and the lighting which in times where shades of browns and dirty yellows.
The songs also where a very good example of the mood and atmosphere because most of them where to a steady beat which shows that there life was always the same and never changed they kept to the beat. I had very high expectations of this play as I had heard a lot of good points about this performance. It is not just a run of the mill play, it was a historic master piece that has been a hit in many different countries, such as England, America and France. My initial response was that I was very excited as soon as the safety curtain rose up from the floor of the stage.
The first thing I saw was a group of criminals in a chain gang who where singing the song “look down” which in my opinion is probably the most powerful songs in the whole performance. Main Body of The Review The Performance Space Les Miserables was staged in a Proscenium Arch with a rotating plate in the centre of it that is essential because of several scenes that definitely revolved around the rotating plate. I think that the director chose to use this technique because it gave the audience quite a wide view of what was going on around them.
Even though the staging was done very well I didn’t feel very involved except for the marching scene when it felt like the actors where marching right towards us. I think the director wanted to stage the production in this way to make the audience feel involved. The Set The set was fairly large with a rotating plate in the middle, the plate was very symbolic in this performance because it symbolised the lives of the characters because they seemed to be going round in circles. The set also had moving barricades, which were very realistic for the barricade scenes.
There is only one set in the whole performance but there are a number of props that come on and off of the stage to set the scene. The barricades are made up of mainly woods such as beds and chairs which shows that the citizens didn’t really have anything but they would put all there household goods up for use if it was going to get them even the slightest bit of respect. The space that was available for the actors was used very well because the performance overall was spread out and wasn’t just crammed into one corner.
In my opinion the best use of space and levels was in the scene when Javert jumped off the bridge he didn’t actually move but the bridge rose very quickly giving the impression of him jumping, this scene would only work if the timing was exactly right. The marching scene also relied a great deal on levels because the people would step forward and lean down at the same time which created the illusion of the actors moving forward even though they where just moving backwards and forwards. The Actor And His/Her Performance Jean Valjean Hans Peter Jonssens played Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread for his poor and dying sister, he was sent to work in the chain gangs he was no longer a person but just a number which was 24601. He broke his bail when he was released from the chain gangs and started a new life. He is physically an exceptionally strong man and a lot of people comment on it. He speaks very firmly to adult men especially Javert and stands upright to show his strength and authority, but when he speaks to women and children he speaks very softly and seems to lean over as if they are equal in authority, he seems to be a true gentleman.
Jean Valjean seemed to be a very proud man we can tell this by his body language because he stands upright at all times other than when he speaks to children. I liked the character Jean Valjean which in my opinion meant that it was a successful character. Javert Peter Corry played Javert. He was the good guy but the way he portrayed the character made us hate him. He is a police officer and was in charge of the chain gang that Jean Valjean was in. he remembered him because he was so strong.
Javert comes across as a very straight man that will always speak his mind and if he didn’t like you then he would make it quite clear. He is a gentleman and is very religious, he does every thing by the book and treats everybody the same. Javert didn’t really give anything away with his facial expressions, as it was always the same. His posture and body language shows us that he is proud of his authority and is pleased that he is enforcing the law.