Dean Close Preparatory School scholars travelled to London to visit the longest running musical Les Misérables. The scholars, pupils who demonstrate a particular aptitude for a chosen discipline whether that is music, art, drama, design and technology or are academic; visited the set, scenes and costume department whilst also enjoying a fantastic drama workshop and the performance itself.
Throughout the day the pupils were immersed in the history of the story. They learnt about the poverty in France in 1815, two decades after the French Revolution. Despite all of the revolutions and changing political parties, the lower classes still had little voice in society; the Les Misérables timeframe is one of economic strife, famine, and disease. The pupils learnt that it took 24hours for the French army of 2000 to defeat the students who demonstrated passionate commitment to their cause. The children were also allowed on stage and saw the small space actors had to work in, the intricate set details, costumes of the leading members of the cast and they learnt how the costumes were chemically treated to give them the worn look which was preserved through hundreds of performances.
During the workshop pupils were guided through the final battle scene. One by one they were counted in by the workshop leader as they started their attack on the enemy. They were then counted into slow-motion, whilst each one fell, all the time listening to the music to help fuel their authentic performances.
Lynne Lawrence, Director of Music said, “It was a fantastic day. Watching the children act with so much maturity reminded me of what they are capable of and will inspire me to challenge them further in the future. Watching them reinact the battle scene nearly bought me to tears.”
Art and DT Scholar Nick Milne said, “This performance has motivated me to do a charcoal piece inspired by the shadows cast by the dingy light in contrast to the coloured costumes and props. The imagery in the play was amazing and I really enjoyed it. The famous drawing of Cosette by Emily Bayard was unlike anything I have seen and I can understand why Victor Hugo wanted to have her as his illustrator. I think all the scholars have really taken away a lot of knowledge from this trip and many would love to experience this again.”
Whilst Drama Scholar, James Carder-Geddes added, “The performance showed us the difference between poverty and wealth. As well as it being entertaining a clear message was given. The actor playing Jean Valjean acted with real emotion and integrity. The acting workshop showed us how much precision and effort is put into just one battle scene. One of the costume changes was done in six seconds! We also went back stage and saw Dame Judy Dench’s signature, which was brilliant! The drama scholars were inspired by this unforgettable piece of musical theatre.”