Vive la revolution! And once again, who is revolting? That’s right, the fucking students. Riotously emerging to the electro beats of Art vs Science’s Parlez-Vous Francais (‘the Champs Elysees is a busy street’ — an apt scene setter), their red and blue waving proudly, Lachie McKenzie, Alice Tovey and Sam Garlepp make the relatively small Piglet tent their own. As a playful parody of the revived sensation Les Miserables, Tres Mis takes 30 characters and three hours and with three actors, squeezes them quite remarkably into a single fun and frantic hour. Famous songs are reworked, your favourite characters are revamped, and the Runaway Cart finally gets its due recognition.
The show satirises contemporary Australian politics as much as the French politics of its roots, from the Abbott Empire to the hipster bourgeoisie. Some of the strongest jokes of the show are those that highlight the problematic gender politics of the original. Young Cossette is particularly great – ‘I’m a slave who lives in a whorehouse, I’ve seen some shit’ – and her adult self, having grown up with all that progressive nonsense disposed of, comically draws attention to her rather sexist function as a mere sexual pawn to be exchanged between Jean Valjean and the horny Marius. In her hilariously reworked version of ‘On My Own’, a masturbatory masterpiece, Eponine declares: ‘it’s time to go destroy the joint and do it on my own.’ But where this astute humour is let down is in the treatment of Fantine who desires, rather than is forced into, prostitution. In cheapening Fantine’s demise I can’t help but feel that they went for the easy laugh rather than the clever one. But it is a show where Javier’s incessant perusal of Jean Valjean (of J. V. J, as Javier affectionately calls him) is result of long term unrequited lust, something that in the context of this version of the tale does work. But it’s all in good fun, and otherwise the writing is tight and the cast manage the high energy transitions between characters, songs and jokes with well-rehearsed fluidity. McKenzie as Javier, Marius, and a creepy priest, among others, is a particular highlight. He is wildly expressive and his strong stage presence and total immersion in each character makes it all too easy to spend the majority of the play watching him alone. But Tovey too, is a talent to be reckoned with. I was not expecting strong vocals in a comedy version of the show, and so when Tovey belted Fantine’s ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ (and then I died) and Eponine’s ‘On My Own (pretending he’s inside me) she managed to poke playful fun at the originals while wowing the audience with an exceptional performance.
Tres Miserables is wildly witty, frantic fun and is sure to entertain fans of the original – be it the book, the musical or the film.
This review originally appeared on Dirt & Candy