Review: Les Misérables, CTC Ipswich, Corn Exchange, Ipswich, to July 28
PUBLISHED: 01:01 26 July 2018 | UPDATED: 01:10 26 July 2018
I'm not a fan of Les Mis, it's a bit of a downer. Or sung through musicals. Or musicals in general. So why watch this a second time? Because CTC are just so good.
This adaptation of Victor Hugo’s historical novel is the intertwining tale of several characters.
Ex-convict Jean Valjean (the excellent Josh Day) struggles for redemption while hunted by the immutable Inspector Javert (the exceptional Ben Kearney). Valjean becomes the guardian of Cosette (the very good Ellie Mellor-Hine) who falls in love with revolutionary Marius (Sam Brown in one of his best roles).
And hilarity ensues. Not really, a lot of people die but don’t let that put you off.
I last saw CTC stage it five years ago. It was their first big production and remains one of the best things I’ve seen. Artistic director Bridie Rowe has learnt a lot since that show. The result is a grittier, more daring, more confident production.
Was this version better? I don’t know yet. I’ve learnt a lot about theatre, about reviewing, since that first show too but nostalgia has a way of playing with memories.
I think they’re too different to compare.
The performances were, as I’ve come to expect from CTC over the years, faultless. Kearney was a revelation; I’d never have pegged him as the villan sort. Charlee Bullock as Epoine, the guttersnipe who pines for Marius, brought a sorrow and a depth to the role that really tugged at the heartstrings.
Rowe has a talent for bringing out the best in her cast; picking the right people, for the right roles at the right time. There’s no padding here, everybody on stage brings something to the table.
Good use was made of the space and I loved how the cast got in among the audience, important at somewhere like the Corn Exchange where there can be a disconnect between performer and spectator because of its size.
While a beautiful venue I missed the intimacy of the company’s semi-regular home the New Wolsey. I feel some scenes would’ve packed even more of an emotional wallop there.
I would’ve like the cast to take full advantage of the thrust staging. The minimalist set was used well but, and it’s a silly gripe, there was too much black.
At times it swallowed, rather than highlighted, the performances, but this was offset by the excellent lighting design.
You could definitely hear the people sing as they left. Get tickets while you can.