Last week, students from the Royal Grammar School High Wycombe, aided by pupils from Wycombe High School, Pipers Corner School and Beaconsfield High School staged four excellent performances of the popular musical ‘Les Misérables’. Victor Hugo’s epic novel is set in 19th century France and makes for an emotive, vibrant musical; the story follows a diverse cast of characters as their paths intertwine, and the plot centres around the struggles and conflicts of redemption, forgiveness, love and justice.

I was fortunate enough to gain tickets for the second performance, which can only be described as magnificent. The cast were consistently excellent: often in school productions there will a handful of standout performances, but the standard was incredibly high across all the soloists. It was genuinely difficult to believe that all the performers were students due to the impressive level of ability.

Although perhaps often – rather unjustly – overlooked, the strength of the orchestra was also vital to the production’s success. They were a constant presence throughout the performance: two and a half hours, even with an interval, is an incredibly demanding amount of time to maintain such high quality, yet they managed to perform brilliantly throughout.

When staging popular musicals such as ‘Les Miserables’, it can be a challenge to inject new life into a performance; the vast number of different interpretations - both on stage and on screen - that have come before mean that it can be difficult to achieve true originality. Yet in the RGS production a couple of scenes stood out as being rather special. The staging of Marius' (Ben Cisneros) solo 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables' was particularly effective; the use of candles to represent his lost comrades was a simple idea with an incredibly moving impact on the audience. The Thenardiers (Tim Houston and Hannah Eggleton) were also used to great effect and provided truly hilarious comic relief, while the wedding scene was notably very well-choreographed.

One audience member I spoke to, Rebecca Haines called the cast ‘outstanding, with a wealth of vocal talent. The set was worthy of the West End!’ Ultimately the production was a huge success, with every performance sold out by mid-week and reported standing ovations at the end of each night.