Review: Bungay’s Fisher youth group deliver another memorable production

The Fisher Youth Theatre Group performing Les Miserables at Bungay's Fisher Theatre. Picture: Helen

The Fisher Youth Theatre Group performing Les Miserables at Bungay's Fisher Theatre. Picture: Helen Nicholson. - Credit: Archant

Les Miserables - Bungay’s Fisher Youth Theatre Group

The Fisher Youth Theatre Group performing Les Miserables at Bungay's Fisher Theatre. Picture: Darren

The Fisher Youth Theatre Group performing Les Miserables at Bungay's Fisher Theatre. Picture: Darren France. - Credit: Archant

This beautiful musical is a story of down-trodden people, harshly treated, forced into theft and prostitution to keep their families; of merciless, ruthless leaders in law and business – and of an idealistic uprising against them by the young people of France in the years after the Revolution.

It is also a story of goodness, and love, of tragedy, and sacrifice for ones’ fellow men and women; of redemption and death.

So bringing out the range of emotions, the pathos, the helplessness and the sacrifices of love is a challenge for any level of production and cast. But this is the Fisher Youth Theatre Group, with many triumphs on its CV – and this was another quite outstanding theatre experience from them, with director Laila France, with support from Darren France and the whole production team, bringing them to a peak of performance at just the right time.

The large cast of the senior group made light of the need to sing while acting, act while singing, and their voices, expression, movement and timing were a joy to behold – the result was truly amazing.

There were some magnificent performances by those in the leading roles, not least that of Leon Bedwell as Jean Valjean, hounded by the ruthless Javert form the moment of his release from jail for stealing a loaf of bread. It was a stunning, rounded, mature performance in a difficult and demanding role, and a tribute to how a precocious seven-year-old has developed and matured in acting and singing talent over the past 10 years, through commitment and determination.

Ollie Derham was impressive as dour police inspector Javert, focused on revenge, as was Aiden Rockey as Marius, loved by the spurned Eponine and in love with Cosette.

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The three leading female roles, all tingling with pathos, were other high quality highlights of an evening which enthralled from start to finish. Ellie Foulger’s singing and acting as Eponine showed her burgeoning skills on her final performance with the group, and in the shared role of Fantine, Sophie Anderson and Abby Bourke, and Hannah Pywell and Millie Thetford, who shared Cosette, tugged determinedly at the heartstrings and massaged the tear-ducts of the audience as they all got the full meaning of the roles over exquisitely – and sung to a high standard into the bargain.

There were other notable performances too, with Ella Thompson-Ives relishing her role as Madame Thenardier to great effect, alongside the equally strong Campbell Docherty as her conniving husband – together they provided the vital comedy safety valve.

Noah Gladwell also caught the eye as Gavroche, as did Ellie Russell as Enjolais. But every one of the cast of around 30 was deserving of individual special mention for the parts they played in another memorable production in which the choral singing, the tableau scenes, costumes, staging and lighting were all to a professional standard.

For some of those involved it was their last performance before moving on to further education. But the group has built a reputation for a rich production line of talent from an early age, and others will emerge in coming years to fill their places – clearly some are already well on that road.

Was this production the greatest yet? That is impossible to say, because other shows which spring to mind, notably The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Crucible, were of completely different genres. But this was certainly up there with them, and there can be no better accolade than that.

In singling out five members of the cast for special mention in her programme notes, Laila France noted: “The whole cast and myself have benefitted from these shining lights, and have all learnt a host of new skills, and encountered new experiences, along the way, that will fill our lives with inspiration for years to come.”

They will become part of the Fisher folklore.