Chung Ying Theatre Company
Hong Kong Cultural Centre
Reviewed: August 26
Adapting Victor Hugo's classic Les Miserables into a play is an ambitious plan when you consider the runaway success of the musical version.
Playwright John Holloway has foregone hi-tech gimmicks and a full orchestra, and is instead relying more on the actors' versatility to portray the story.
However, the set was a problem. It's tedious for the audience to wait, even a few seconds, between scenes that might only be a few lines long. Music could have complemented the scenery transformation and given the production more atmosphere.
In this production, the actors also take on the role of musicians. Seldom in Hong Kong do we have drama performances in which the actors are also musicians. And this production may be a clue as to why.
There is a lack of capable performers.
The actors are not strong musicians and had difficulty managing the drama and music simultaneously. Because the actors can only perform the two disciplines separately, the pace becomes slow and the music comes across as flat jingles designed to bridge the scenes.
One of the biggest problems of the production is its overall rhythm, and the fact key scenes were not given the attention they deserved. Many important moments were lost, as pivotal drama was undermined by unnecessary gags.
Director Peter Jordan rightly says that one of the enduring attractions of Hugo's novel is
its 'complex mixture of comedy and tragedy'. But with little to define either comic and tragic moments, the performance falls into an insipid recounting of a familiar story.