If you are just beginning your journey into the amateur theatre scene and, like many, remain sceptical over the value of said performances – an easy rule of thumb to take note of is that CLOC never fails to produce an extraordinary musical theatre performance. In fact, it is hard to believe this Melbourne based theatre company even exists on an amateur level, given how significantly the talented performers exceed expectations. This season’s rendition of Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserables certainly made the people sing, filling St Kilda’s National Theatre and excitedly awaiting the events of director Chris Bradtke’s recreation of the second French revolution.
The atmosphere upon entry was moody as the lights were blue and dimly lit above the poverty stricken set of wooden staircases and barrels. During the production the portable nature of the set pieces allowed for swift transitions into new scenes and musical numbers. With projectors shining images onto the blank set walls, the scene transitions impressed effortlessly, contributing to the sharpness and professionalism of the production. Les Miserables is as heartbreaking as it is inspirational, therefore the lighting was executed particularly well in juxtaposing the various moods within the performance. Moments of sadness were portrayed with dimly lit spotlights and moments of action and triumph with quick flickers of red and white light brightening up the stage.
Mark Doran’s performance as convicted criminal Jean Val Jean was outstanding. He nailed his performance with his vocals range capturing both the brutality and vulnerability of his character’s journey, which was truly a delight to hear as he completed the vocally demanding task with ease. India Morris played Eponine, a poor teenage girl who is in love with Marius who tragically doesn’t love her back, as Cosette has stolen his heart. Morris’s talents installed a certain authenticity and truth to the character with her rendition of “On my Own” striking a chord with audiences. Madame Thenardier played by Melanie Ott was incredibly funny. Ott did not only bring quality vocals to the role but successfully captured the character’s witty and raunchy sense of humour, which earned many laughs from the audience mostly occurring during her song “Master of the House”. To me, the chorus in Les Miserables has always been one of the most important and powerful elements of the show. They are the voice of the poor during the 1800’s in France, their passion and longing for change truly demonstrates their hardships living in the slums, further accentuating the main theme of the show being their hopes for a revolution. The chorus held perfect harmonies, which were incredibly strong and powerful, and was a highlight of the show especially during “At the End of the Day” and “Do You Hear the People Sing”.
Costumes within the show were very fitting. Each character was easily identifiable with their costumes successfully portraying their status and staying true to how Les Miserables is shown during a professional production. The hair and makeup were also done very well, with dirt splotches on the chorus’s faces being indicative of their poverty stricken lives. Similarly impressive, was the show stopping visual change of Madame Thenardier’s character towards the show’s conclusion, dawning an elaborate Marie Antoinette inspired wig and corresponding 18th Century-esque make up design. This, married to the character’s pronounced cleavage worked to prove how much attention to detail make up and wig designer David Wisken put into each character’s persona.
From the narrative’s emotional durability to the soundscape’s effective use of blunt and jarring gun shots: there are many elements of surprise throughout the show. As the audience jumped from their seats at the sound of shots, their nostrils filled with the scent of gunpowder – helping to construct an utterly immersive atmosphere.
If you are a musical theatre lover then you have no doubt seen Les Miserables live, probably on multiple occasions. If you are hoping to see it again, or have never seen it before, CLOC’s performance offers a remarkable rendition, giving professional musical performances a run for their money. The show ran for almost three hours, which can be a little taxing on one’s derriere – but overall it’s worth it because CLOC’s Les Miserables is truly heartening and inspirational.
Performances are running until the 27th of May and you can find tickets here!