IT’S hard to not be absorbed into the enthralling spiral of depression that is the story of Les Misérables.
Despite just how bleak the story can be at times, the performance by a cast of some of Australia’s finest is every bit as good as the critics have claimed.
From page to stage, the Australian adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic French Revolution saga does the story justice beyond belief in a seamlessly flowing rendition that transports the audience into 19th century France.
With love tales, pursuits, sex and confrontation, the story unfolds with tales of the impoverished and “imperfect” of the time, erupting in social upheaval and enough death.
The performance’s protagonist character Jean Valjean (Simon Gleeson) takes centre stage and throws the story into action upon his freedom from imprisonment for – thanks to the way things were back then – stealing a loaf of bread.
As with any tale of woe, social demise eats Valjean away until a distinct and profound turning point. This gives way to his life’s change of pace with an adopted daughter, Cosette (Emily Langridge) while on the run from the law. A police chief named Javert (Hayden Tee) partners Valjean’s character through the metaphorical decades amid a pivotal social uprising.
Both Gleeson and Tee put the pride back into what it means to be a man with a voice. Hitting a wide and surprisingly varied range of notes through their perpetual solos and group pieces, the men work perfectly with the likes of Langridge and Patrice Tipoki as Fantine in moving the audience to different emotions.
As love between Valjean’s daughter and a young revolt Marius (Euan Doidge) blossoms, but is wholly cursed, the pursuit of Valjean never ceases until Javert and Valjean’s death.
Punctuated at perfect intervals by the play’s resident comedians Thénardier and his wife the Madame (Trevor Ashley and Lara Mulcahy), the true personality of the early 19th century shone and brought the audience some refreshing hilarity among some otherwise heavy content.
For a play that has been performed globally since 1985, it’s refreshing to see that as times move on and interpretations of the story may change, the theatricality of the piece remains the same.
From its first movie debut in 2013 to its Australian adaptation this year, Les Misérables is a shining testament to not only the author’s words but the performing arts movement of Australia.
Les Misérables is now showing Melbourne at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Purchase tickets through Ticketek.