After many years of hoping, I have finally managed to see the 25 year old phenomenon that is Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables on stage at the Queen’s Theatre. It is English opera as I’ve never seen it before, filled with passion, musicality, comedy – a spectacle that moves and awes.
Amongst the theatrical treats and surprises, I was amazed to see that almost a quarter of the cast were trained at the Guildford School of Acting (on campus of the University of Surrey), as did Christopher Key, resident director and the character Jean Valjean on the night I went to. James Charlton, Mary Cormack, Helen Owen, and Liz Singleton also made up a large proportion of the outstanding ensemble that really helped to build the atmosphere. As part of the hilariously sinister “Lovely Ladies” song, Leanne Rogers was the commanding Madame, whilst the two lead female roles of Fantine and Cosette were played by Caroline Sheen and Lisa-Anne Wood respectively, both of whom are recent graduates, Wood finishing only last summer.
As a performance, I cannot find the words to do justice to the wonder of Les Misérables. It has seen a quarter of a century onstage, toured internationally and across America, and is currently residing in Shaftesbury Avenue. The original design by John Napier features a stark set of ladders and chairs, creating dilapidated buildings and the infamous Parisian Republican barricade. Combined with the stirring orchestration of John Cameron and new developments by Christopher Jahnke, it is, needless to say, a masterpiece of creativity and emotion.
It’s a real credit to GSA – and by extension the community of Surrey – that such a key part of this world-renowned production hail from our campus and studentship. The production is undoubtedly a must-see regardless of its cast, but the fact that it boasts so many home-grown actors makes it even more appealing, especially to Theatre students from both GSA and the University. It is an inspiration to see what can be achieved after graduation; in such a competitive industry, for seven students to land such roles is something to be proud of and aspire to.
[Article written for student paper ‘The Stag’ issue 41, to be distributed around Surrey Uni on 31st Jan]