On 14th of August 2013 I went to see Les Misérables at Queen’s Theatre. Not many plays still break box-office records in their 29th year in the west end and its easy to see why Les Misérables does. Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, it follows the story of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict in 19th century France on the run from his enemy- the officer Javert. The 2nd act is follows the June rebellions of the mid 19th century and the group of young students and rebels who fought for their freedom in an attempt to break the crippling class system of monarchical France. It tells the story of freedom, sacrifice, love and redemption and I found it both emotionally moving and also action packed and exiting. I also saw Wrong-doings and wake-up calls at the stop-off motel in Mylor Theatre on 16th October 2013, which is about two people who wake-up in a Vegas motel room with no memory of the night before.
Both performances were performed on a proscenium arch stage with a box set, however the similarities end there. Les Misérables has a dynamic and changing set design that includes two large moving set pieces, a revolve, a cyclorama and large back sets. The set is very naturalistic, it fits with the time period and makes the audience feel like they are really in 19th century France. Wrong-doings however was a low-budget touring production and naturally had a much less extravagant set, which consisted of only a bed two end tables and a door. This changed to show different settings, I found this a very effective way of using a minimalistic set, and made it easy to follow changes in scene and time.
The set and staging aspects of Les Misérables were both extravagant and effective. One of my favourite pieces of set that was used was the revolve. The revolve was placed centre stage and had a circumference of 28.26 metres that took up the most of the stage and was used multiple times to great effective. For example, when Valjean is looking for work it is used to show time passing. Valjean walks in the spot downstage centre whilst the revolve turns, bringing new people towards him to interact, this is a quick and effective way of showing that time is passing without wasting too much time with entrances and exits, adding to an already 3 hour long play. Domenic Cavendish of the Telegraph describes the revolve saying that ‘the revolve whirls tirelessly, lending a cinematic fluidity to a bustling, beautifully lit spectacle’ and I completely agree, I also found that it gave an aspect of fluidity to the play. Another set piece that I found was effective was the two large ‘barricades’ that were brought on from either side towards the end of the first act when the setting moved to Paris. These where very effective as they allowed the use of levels that added a third dimension to the scene and made it seem more realistic and gave the audience the impression that we were actually in the Parisian streets. A very effective and emotional moment in the play, which made use of both these set pieces, was at the end of the fight. The gunshots had stopped and the smoke had cleared and on the barricade you could see the bodies of the fallen revolutionaries, then as the set turned to the other side of the barricade, you could see Enjorlas’ body stretched out across the opposite side where he had fallen, still holding the red flag of the revolution. The revolve made this even more effective by its slow movement, this allowed the scene to build and really be set into the audiences mind. I found this scene very emotional and the audience were completely silent throughout it. Wrong-doings also used it’s more minimal set very effectively. The set was very adaptable and changed throughout the performance, for example between the scene set in the motel and the scene in the casino, the set was changed merely by lifting up the end of the bed to show a chalkboard listing drinks special. This simple action managed to transform the entire setting and I