Review: Les Miserables

Director: Cameron Mackintosh

Author: Victor Hugo

Key Cast: David Shannon, Hadley Fraser, Caroline Sheen, Lisa-Anne Wood

Rating: 4 stars

Having spent so long sniffing out the coveted ‘hidden’ and the ‘alternative’ London spots and attractions, I had almost forgotten about the staple must-sees of our beautiful (and currently festively clad) metropolitan. Les Miserables celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010 – with 25 years of success on the West End stage under its belt, the musical greeted me with open arms in April this year (yes, this is a very tardy post, BUT I HAD EXAMS, PEOPLE). And my, oh my, was I in for a treat.

The story (have you read the 1,400+ pages of French drivel that makes up the original novel? No, I didn’t think so) revolves around a reformed ex-con Jean Valjean (Shannon), on the run from a slightly crazed prison guard-turned policeman Javert (Fraser), and a little girl Cosette (Wood), whom Valjean agrees to take under his wing after her mother tragically dies in front of him (Fantine, played by Caroline Sheen). A whole bunch of revolutionary stuff happens, there are lots of young men in tailored jackets and red flags, a barricade and a sad love triangle. I won’t spoil it by giving anything away, but let’s just put it this way; it’s no wonder the original book is bigger than the Bible – a whole lotta shit happens!

Now the production itself didn’t disappoint either, and I’m going to be completely honest here – I even shed a tear towards the end. I’m not one to get overly emotional over cinema or theatre (with the certain exception of Studio Ghibli – there were tears. TEARS EVERYWHERE), but even my heart melted when all these young Frenchies threw themselves over a barricade in the hopes of a better (aka socialist; let’s face it, we’re all thinking it) future. There’s something about anything vaguely patriotic that always gets me. Plus all the performers obviously knew what they were doing, and it was genuinely a pleasant thing to witness.

The only reason I wouldn’t give the West End production a 5/5 is because I’m a pedantic fool, unable to fully enjoy anything, unless it is absolutely perfect. Although in my defence, I think my reasoning in this case is not as anal as it could be. The first Act focuses on Cosette’s upbringing, and her strained relationship with a girl named Eponine. In Act 2 the action skips eight years, and the girls meet again, but this time as young women. However, in the space of those eight years, Eponine has not only matured and warmed to Cosette, having seen the errors of her ways, but she had also CHANGED RACE. There’s no denying that both young and older Eponine were very good performers, but the mere scientific improbability of someone shifting from white to Afro-Caribbean black in just over eight years, simply threw me off track with a good half an hour chuck of the production. I just couldn’t concentrate on anything else, other that the ridiculous faux pas of the casting director, who is either incredibly ignorant, or so progressive and post-modern, this was his attempt to defy race in general. Well unfortunately, as much as I appreciate the attempt, I just couldn’t help feeling confused and back-tracking the entire plot in my head to make sure I’d placed this Eponine character correctly. I had. The bastards made me doubt myself. Pfft, for that, I shall only grace them with 4 stars, even though I still cried, and toyed with the idea of being a French revolutionary in a dream I had the following night.

Oh, and on another note, I should point out that this year is probably the best to go see the play – the motion picture remake is due to come out in December this year, and features the familiar faces of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine and Amanda Seyfried as Cossette. Needless to say, this is all very good preparation for what is set to be a very square-eyed Christmas for me (Leo DiCaprio is in Baz Luhrmann’s new The Great Gatsby, and the long awaited LOTR prequel,The Hobbit = both out in December).

Trailer for ze Hollywood equivalent y’all:

PS If you’re pedantic enough to find my lack of proper, FRENCH, spelling of Les Miserables (oh no, there I go again) bothersome, I have one piece of advice for you – Get. A. Life.


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