Author

Elizabeth Wells

2 July 2019

10 Unusual Facts About Les Misérables

It’s just under a week until our musical theatre workshop At The End of the Day so we have been investigating the award-winning musical Les Misérables. Written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alan Boublil, Les Misérables is based on the 1862 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. It follows the story of ex-convict Jean Valjean through France as he tries to find redemption and escape the clutches of police officer Javert. The story culminates in a student revolution (based on the Paris uprising of 1832) and has become incredibly popular since its première in 1985. Les Misérables is one of the most successful musicals ever – it has been performed across the world and is the longest-running show in the West End. A show with this much history is bound to have some interesting stories to tell, so we have done some digging to come up with ten interesting facts that you may not have known about Les Misérables.

  1. When it opened in the West End in 1985 the reviews were awful! The critics hated the musical but the public fell in love with the show and within 24 hours, an unprecedented 5,000 tickets had been sold. It has since gained critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Tony award for Best Original Score in 1987.
  2. Each professional performance includes 392 costumes, consisting of over 5,000 individual items of clothing!
  3. A visit to the musical Oliver! inspired the show. Lyricist Alan Boublil went to see the London revival production and the Artful Dodger instantly reminded him of the urchin Gavroche from Les Misérables.
  4. The musical was adapted into a film in 2012 starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. Usually the music for film musicals is pre-recorded months before shooting starts but for Les Misérables, all the singing was recorded live on set which required a sound crew three times the normal size!
  5. In the film, the set used for the barricade scene was the same as the set used for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), just remodelled!
  6. In Victor Hugo’s novel he dedicates a whole chapter to discussing social reforms of the Parisian sewers. Thankfully this did not make it into the musical, although there is a short scene that takes place in the sewer as a reference.
  7. The late-Romantic composer Giacomo Puccini was approached about turning the novel Les Misérables into a full-scale opera but declined because he did not feel it was suitable for a stage show. Luckily Boublil and Schönberg did not share this opinion as then the musical may have never existed!
  8. The stage production in London famously features a revolving stage that allows seamless scene transitions.
  9. The musical has been translated into an astounding 21 languages, including Hungarian, Korean and Catalan!
  10. Les Misérables is a sung-through musical, but there are only two soundtrack albums that feature the whole score. One of these, The Complete Symphonic Recording, features cast members from all over the world and had to be recorded in three different places.

Les Misérables certainly has an interesting history and is a musical worth exploring. If these snippets of information have inspired you to want to find out more about the musical, why not come along to our musical theatre workshop At The End of the Day to perform songs from Les Misérables!

13 June 2019

Young Ambassadors Bring Windrush Into Schools

Over the past two years, GCF have been working on a Windrush project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The first half of this project culminated in the production Sorrel & Black Cake: A Windrush Story that was performed at the Mandela Centre in Chapeltown, The Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds Central Library and at the Ilkley Literature Festival. We also developed a Windrush Learning Resource that contains everything you need to plan and teach a lesson on Windrush or simply educate yourself.

As the project draws to a close two of our Young Ambassadors, Adeline Pitu and Lulia Togara have been developing a workshop to deliver in schools throughout June. To find out a bit about how they have found the experience of putting together a workshop and presenting in schools I asked them a few questions.

Adeline and Lulia presenting the workshop at Notre Dame Sixth Form College.
Adeline and Lulia at Notre Dame Sixth Form College

What have you learnt from creating the workshop?

Lulia: The importance of the bigger picture! Not just focusing on the interesting bits of information I want to share, but really thinking about how to make an engaging exercise into a life lesson.

Adeline: How to deal with certain information, materials and different ages, applied to Windrush and migration.

What’s been the hardest part about it?

Adeline: This one is a little difficult to answer, as I’ve only had a few experiences of creating workshops before. However, I do think it’s hard to pin down what material you want to use and why and keep in mind the time of how long each section and response will take. But I know that this situation can be experienced in any type of workshop, depending on the topic.

It also depends on what age range you will have to teach, as it can be difficult to try to balance different perspectives on what they would and would not be used to. (E.g. Different learning styles, visual, auditory, etc).

Lulia: Realising there’s a lot of information I want to share and only an hour to do it in.

What’s your favourite bit of the workshop?

Lulia:  If I had to pick, I’d say the Powerful Passports exercise, but I think all the sections are really lovely.

Adeline: Having fun while learning.

How do you feel the first workshops went?

Adeline: It was hard at first but by the end we really got into it. The hardest part was being nervous at the start, but I know that the more practice we get with the workshop, the easier it will get.

Do you want to do more things like this in the future?

Adeline: I would like to lead different workshops when I can, that can help and inspire others as well as learning from them myself. The more I put things into practice, the more confidence I have to give others what they need.

Lulia: Definitely!

Many thanks to Adeline and Lulia for letting me chat to them, and congratulations on delivering several successful workshops!

Lulia presenting the workshop.