REVIEW: Christ’s Hospital students amaze with high-energy musical theatre

Les Miserables at Christ's Hospital
Les Miserables at Christ's Hospital

It is always interesting to attend a performance of a classic such as Les Misérables.

It is, after all, now an Oscar-winning film, as well as one of the world’s longest running and most loved musicals.

Les Miserables at Christ's Hospital

Les Miserables at Christ's Hospital

It is also a mammoth production with three hours of songs, battles, barricades and quick transformations.

Would a school production be able to do justice to such a challenging piece?

The answer in short is: yes, it would. Christ’s Hospital’s cast of many, under the leadership of new director of drama, John Johnson, were committed and energetic throughout.

They created a production of professional standards that left many of the audience asking whether some of the performers were actually pupils.

Director of Drama John Johnson

Director of Drama John Johnson

It was the ensemble scenes that really shone – ‘At the End of the Day’ was rousing and had terrific bite, ‘Lovely Ladies’ was suitably represented with coloured LED lighting and impressive costumes and ‘Master of the House’ gave the impression of a rowdy Parisian bar with some excellent comic turns from Cameron Blackshaw and Caitlin Slater as Mr and Mrs ‘T’. The sheer energy and commitment in these scenes was terrific.

This ensemble effort was typified by the revolutionary students – led by Alexi Baramidze as a more than convincing Enjorlas. This group of boys showed a camaraderie that had great strength in the various attacks and passion and power in ‘ABC Cafe’ and ‘Drink with Me.’

The set and lighting design deserves special mention. The moment the barricade was revealed drew a grasp of delight from the audience as it rotated from back to front. This, along with lighting effects, gun shots and explosions, created a suitable atmosphere as the battle unfolded. Theatre technician Simon Ashdown, fresh from working on the West End’s show of Les Mis, made a huge contribution.

Perhaps the most extraordinary performance came from Simon Salvi, whose portrayal of Jean Valjean was quite remarkable. Salvi’s efforts were admirable all round, from his emotional rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’ through to his physical work in the rescue of the stricken Marius, which demanded great strength.

This was a fully rounded effort in a convincing creation of an in-depth role and was just one example of terrific acting from the cast.

The New Director of Drama

John Johnson was appointed as Christ’s Hospital’s director of drama this term. His first major project was to direct Christ’s Hospital’s senior play ‘Les Misérables’ (school edition).

He joined Christ’s Hospital in September from Christ’s College Brecon where he was head of creative arts and assistant house master for four years. Prior to that, he was head of drama and head of house at the Elizabeth Woodville School.

As an actor, John toured Italy with an international theatre production company and created his own work at The Edinburgh Festival. Most recently, John has acted with The Willow Globe Theatre Company in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ and with Open Stage on ‘The Three Sisters’, ‘Hecuba’ and ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’.

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