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Friday, 27 April 2012

Review of Les Miserables in the Leinster Leader

Leinster Leader, Tuesday April17th 2012

KILCULLEN is the moral centre of drama in Kildare this week with its production of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, writes Lisa Deeney.

It's not just a play but a heart and soul production by the Kilcullen Drama Society. Tlirou.ghotit the audience were awed by the goodness crusade, the redemption trial of Jean Valjean (Donagh Noone), saddened by the wretchedness of the poor, shocked by the unforgiving pride of Javert (John CoIeman) and others, and entertained by the cruel Thenardiers.

'Les Miserables’ is an 1862 French novel by author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. It follows the lives and interactions of several French characters over a 17- year period in the early 19th century. The novel focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. It examines the nature of law and grace and expatiates upon the history of France, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love.

With the story so familiar, the cast in the Kilcullen Drama Society had their work cut out to make a distinctive mark, indeed some fight better than others at the musical barricades scene! And last Friday night directed by the hard- working Mischa Fekete, they proved their worth.
The story of Les Mis is one which you cannot help but fall in love with, and with such an emotionally intelligent cast on stage it merely heightened the audience's empathy with the characters. The first solo went to the very reverend Bishop Monseigneur Myriel (John Martin) his strong but quiet voice and unforgiving demeanour set the tone.

The metaphysical struggle between the former convict Jean Valjean (Donagh Noone) and the pursuing policeman Javert (John Coleman) was a very real and dramatic one. Throughout their time on stage together it was often tricky not to side with both of these men. One fighting for justice (admittedly an unfair one in the audience's eyes); the other fighting for his freedom, and the wellbeing of others around him.
Charlene Kilroy as Fantine was perhaps one of the best at telling her story, a shatteringly beautiful and emotionally wrought performance; and one in which her simplicity on stage, with just the occasional glance to the side or a meaningful and perhaps frightened glare to the audience; highlighted the pain she was clearly feeling. Pain too was to be found in other areas of this production, and none more so than in Eponine's (Orna Whyte) hidden love for Marius (Jack Scullion). But Marius and Cosette (Mary Kiely) was a great love story, their chemistry on stage together was quite palpable.

Some much needed light relief in Les Mis comes from the Thenardiers, and what light relief it was too. The sheer energy that Bernard Berney and Siobhan Murphy brought to these two roles would be enough to power the whole of Kildare for a month, and their charisma when interacting with other characters was second to one. These two created many wonderfully camp, hilarious and confident moments.

And death. The audience were gripped at Fantine's death, Valjean was there holding her hand and watching over her, promising that Cosette would be safe; at his own death, Cosette, Fantine, Marius, all the cast holding his hands, consoling and guiding him as he slipped away, this heightened the sense of, completion as the story neared its end, and also added to the importance Valjean’s character, and what he had achieved during his life.

The finale was huge, bringing together all those who had died, survived, battled, fought and wrestled with morality itself, and provided a memorable ending.

From a technical perspective, this play was pot an easy one, with lighting, sound, design and direction, never mind an enormous barricade; Much praise to the hardworking director Mischa Fekete and Tara MΓΌcke", who made the whole thing look easy. All the hats and hair pieces off to the  costumes Philomena Droney, with a cast of over 30 it was no mean feat.  

The Kilcullen Drama Society is a driving force, the best seats in Kildare (comfy Volvo car seats kindly donated by Dunlea's Garage some years back!) This was a great theatre adaptation that sent me straight to Naas Library for a copy of the novel. It's running from 13th to the 21stApril. Nightly performances @8pm sharp. Ring 045-481497 for tickets but do book early to avoid disappointment.

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