I am now going to attempt the impossible. To convey to you something of the profound experience that was Captivate Theatre's production of Les Misérables.
We sat front row, I was on the aisle, my feet touching the steps to the stage. I felt the stage move as Javert and Valjean fought and the students sang 'Red and Black', as the fighters sweep past me, catching me up with them, to the barricade.
I cannot adequately express what I feel in response to this performance. We sat outside in the sunshine, in silence, in wonder, for a while afterwards, revelling in the moment.
In no particular order, here are the moments I remember, to which I want to hold on.
Alex Gavin as Gavroche owned the stage, owned Javert in the moment of uncovering him as a spy, having watched him intently, the only other character on stage, as he sang 'Stars' (I hope I've got that last moment right). The staging of Gavroche's death was brilliant: Gavroche himself behind the barricade, his singing of his dying lines full of courage, defiance, cheek. We could not see Gavroche, but we could see every fighter on the barricade, listening, watching, agonising, grieving.
Samuel Stevenson and Megan Gardiner as Marius and Cosette watched each other through one of their songs, in which Eponine and Valjean also sing their story line. Gardiner gave the often two-dimensional Cosette depth, and her voice. Her voice. Stevenson's 'Empty chairs at empty tables' was full of grief, loss, the gratitude for life mixed with the guilt of the survivor, in a fraternal commitment to remember.
The Thénardiers (Eoin Mullan & Sally Cairns) did not disappoint with the vulgarity and comedy and everything their characters should be. Comic timing, the costuming and make up fabulous, just right. And their guests were so wonderfully in the moment, so as to not steal the spotlight, but rather build the scene with vitality, as they joked with one another, talked to their friend the bottle, and swung a maid over a shoulder.
The use of effects on the microphones, to strip back or add depth and resonance worked well. Fantine's singing to Valjean in his dying moment had an ethereal quality that supported the moment. And her rising from her death bed, the soul departing earth, as young Cosette entered the stage, looking to her castle on the cloud / the departing Fantine - magic.
Éponine's (Anna Macleod) 'On my own'. Just right with the mix of almost spoken, emotion-laden acting and floating, dreamlike wistfulness at the love that will never be requited.
Enjolras, played by Matthew Wilson – I would follow him into battle. Grantaire - there was a moment, when Marius was singing about Cosette, to the annoyance of Enjolras and the amusement of the others, when Peter Goddard as Grantaire says, 'sit down Marius'. For me, this was one of the moments that made what was happening on stage feel like it was not happening on stage, but that we were there, in that place, as the story was unfolding.
Every single character was present in every single moment, their emotions responding to the dynamics between them all. Oh, they were aware of the audience, but they were immersed in the story with their whole being, each one; and we were thus drawn in. A strong, committed, generous ensemble performance.
Mark Scott's Javert was one of the best I can remember seeing. Even with the counterpoint between Javert and Valjean by Fantine's hospital bed cut from this version, Scott played Javert's loss of self in the face of Valjean's mercy so that I understood it. His line, 'in saving my life, he killed me even so', made sense; as did, for the only time I can recall, his suicide. He was playing that descent into madness long before we saw it in his despairing pull at his hair. Scott's final note, Javert singing 'home' ...
I've been putting off speaking of Keir Ogilvy's Valjean directly, for fear of overbearing superfluity. In 'Bring him home' we witnessed a man praying; I don't recall any other actor giving me that experience. Ogilvy's singing of that was some of his best singing for me. It reminded me of Colm Wilkinson's Valjean.
With no make up or costuming or props, only within himself, his presence, his carriage, Ogilvy conveyed Valjean at the different ages. He was, by the end, an older man, though Ogilvy can't be far into his twenties, if that. I loved the love with which he sang, yes, command me to live, I will obey, to Cosette.
He carried the weight of Valjean's 19 years in prison, his striving to be the better man the priest challenged him to be, with what, I suppose, could be called gravitas. (The priest, by the way, whose actor is not named in the program, had a wonderful poise and presence about him, too, that I very much enjoyed.)
Valjean is my favourite thing about Les Misérables, the story. Ogilvy was my favourite thing about this production. I cannot tell you how much joy it gave me to witness his embodiment of this profound and complex character. To hear him sing.
I cannot express how much joy it gave me to experience this production of Les Misérables. I was, in all honesty, captivated, from beginning to end.