A street-smart, argot-tongued French girl from the nineteenth century has been my beloved alter-ego over the past three and a half months. In a few days, I will tell her story on the Arts Theatre stage.
I am a self-confessed Francophile. I love the language, the culture, and the composers, and delving into the text of Victor Hugo and the beautiful music of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil has been a privilege.
One of the joys of theatre is the opportunity to breathe life into much-loved characters. There is much to love about Eponine Thenardier. She is courageous, loyal, down-trodden, savvy, devoted, and gets to sing some great songs in the musical version of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Miserables. As a daughter of the cunning, manipulative Thenardiers her life is cold and dark, and absent of the love she longs for. Her friend, Marius, is her shining light and she lives in a fantasy that he could some day return her affection. Unfortunately for “Ponine”, he falls in love with Cosette, daughter of the protagonist Jean Valjean. The tragic unrequited love Eponine possesses for Marius makes her feel like the shortest side of an isosceles love triangle, with Cosette and Marius being the equal sides who mirror one another’s feelings.
In the musical version of Les Miserables, Eponine is given some heart-wrenching music to sing. Her songs emphasise the solitude and obscurity of her character. She lacks role models, direction, and love. The Paris Uprising and her love for Marius give her a sense of purpose amidst her meaningless life of thievery and dishevelled dreams. Her naïveté is expressed by lyrics in the song ‘On my Own’ where she sings, “… and although I know that he is blind, still I say there’s a way for us”.
One of my favourite moments from rehearsal has been singing ‘A Little Fall of Rain’, her duet with Marius. During one rehearsal run of act two, the rain fell on the roof of our rehearsal space as soon as the song began, and it stopped again when it was over; that was a magical moment.
Watching other people work has helped me develop my character. Having a sense of context from several perspectives, including the audience’s, has challenged me to reassess the intent and motivations of Eponine. I have been moved by the acting and singing of my fellow performers and it has been a truly gratifying experience to watch this show come together.
This Sunday, we have sitzprobe, my favourite part of pre-production, where the orchestra and the cast come together for the first time and the music truly comes to life. Saturday morning, 16 September at 10:00am (ACST), I also get to sing ‘On my Own’ on Arts Breakfast – Radio Adelaide (101.5FM).
I’m so excited to present this character and this wonderful musical production to Adelaide audiences in a few days’ time. I sincerely thank the creative team; Linda Williams (Director), David Sinclair (Director), Peter Johns (Musical Director), and Gilbert & Sullivan Society of South Australia for entrusting me with this role.
“Chookas” to my cast, crew, and creative team as we march into production week!