Children’s Theatre Company Ipswich have learnt a lot since last staging Les Misérables

CTC Ipswich stage Les Mis�rables Picture: CTC IPSWICH

CTC Ipswich stage Les Mis�rables Picture: CTC IPSWICH - Credit: CTC IPSWICH

Five years after last staging Les Misérables, the Children’s Theatre Company Ipswich return with the French-set drama, this time at the Corn Exchange.

The Children’s Theatre Company Ipswich return to a France on the edge of rebellion and to one of their most celebrated productions - Les Misérables.

The musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s historical novel is the intertwining tale of several characters, particularly ex-convict Jean Valjean’s struggles for redemption.

It’s been five years since CTC last staged the show. It remains one of the best things I’ve seen in many years of reviewing. They’ve learnt a lot since then says artistic director Bridie Rowe.

“Our production in 2013 was fantastic because it was our first big production we did. We’ve come a long way as a company,” she says.

“The approach we’ve taken this time is completely different and it’s wonderful. Sam Brown - who played Gavroche last time and is now playing Marius - said ‘I just love the way we’re rehearsing it this time’.”

They dismissed ideas of altering the time period and other radical fancies fashionable in theatre right now, not wanting to run the risk of disappointing Les Mis’ ardent following.

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“Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a carbon copy of the West End which is probably a trap I fell into five years ago.

“Less experienced, I probably relied on YouTube clips a bit too much, thinking ‘oh that must be the way to do it, because it’s so successful’.

“This time it’s a lot grittier, particularly the factory scene which makes Fantine’s journey a lot more emotional. I was choked up by the Fantine and the factory foreman’s performance in rehearsals. The stage is in the thrust, so the cast are surrounded on three sides by the audience...”

The company has spent a lot of time on the text and the character work, trying improv and other different things.

“The character investment, the emotional investment from all of them is on another level.

“We did the epilogue at the end with Valjean and I glanced to the right and one of the cast was blubbing. He said ‘it’s just so sad’. I thought ‘if you’re like that now and we’re not even in costume on stage’.”

Sam’s one of 12 returning cast members from the original. Eliza Walker, who played young Cosette, now plays her grown-up for example; providing nice symmetry. Overall there are 58 people in the production, with some of the junior company getting a taste of life on stage by playing urchins.

“Its such a big show. There are around 100 costumes. I’m going to count them and do a sweepstake with the cast to see who thinks how many we have. Most of them have more than one, in some cases five or six. It’s crazy,” adds Bridie.

• See CTC Ipswich perform Les Misérables at Ipswich Corn Exchange, July 21-28.