I am mentioning plots and events from; Les Miserables, very mildly from Friends and in mentioning the latter, Little Women. Just so folk know.
In the time of cassette tape walkman’s, I am that old, I rode the bus to school, thirty minutes in a Yorkshire Traction bus either way for 15p… going up to a whopping 33p by the time I left the school.
One particular girl, older than me by two years, introduced me to Lloyd Weber’s long standing musical, based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name (which I have since read) Les Miserables. I listened to it so much on the bus to school that she ended up giving me her copy of the tape.
Later that year (or possibly the next, I admit I am a smidgen hazy about general events of High School as I have mostly blocked them out in a monumental feat of self preservation) I got the opportunity through the school’s music department which I was part of via the Wind band as percussionist, to go and see the touring performance from the West End in Manchester.
I was about 12 or 13 and I sat in the theatre between the girl who’d given me the tape and my best friend who was also about three years older than me. I sat through the whole thing in raptures, completely enamoured by the sheer spectacle. I’ve always been able to thoroughly submerse myself within any theatrical performance; the same cannot definitively be said of either television or necessarily film.
Any way, all was well until Act 2, and a fair way through it at that, more specifically the death of Eponin. You have to first understand that before this experience I had only ever listened to the tape, at that time I had yet to buy a copy of Monsieur Hugo’s novel.
To say I was shocked would be a vast understatement… the fact that it is still quite clear to my mind now some…15 years later should be some indicator, the fact that that is now the only really solid thing I remember about the show, barring the experiences surrounding it. I left the theatre in silence, grasping my friend’s hand, sat quietly next to her on the coach home, when normally that would have been a great delight to me.
I got home very late and was naturally immediately sent to bed, minutes after my head hit the pillow I was sobbing, mourning the loss of a character who had died for the first time to me, despite the amount of times I had heard the musical on tape. I cried for the girl whose unhappiness I felt unparalleled, even at 12/13 I knew her life had been unpleasant and hard.
From my listening to the tape and now is maybe the time that I should admit that my hearing isn’t especially stellar, it appeared that she had finally found some semblance of happiness in the arms of Marius, though I concede to being faintly disgusted with her choice of infatuation. To discover that she had died on the barricade seemingly for naught rendered me temporarily distraught. I made the point about my hearing to point out the fact that since she sang at the end of the show also, I felt I was justified in my presumptions, how was I supposed to tell that she was a ghost from a tape recording alone?
The result of this new found knowledge? The tape was spurned, for months, I suspect much to my mothers joy and confusion for I had listened to it repeatedly. When asked all I could say with any clarity was that they had killed Eponin. In my eyes it had been the final insult to her.
In retrospect my actions where something akin to Joey Tribiani’s response to Little Women in the comedy show Friends, whereby he hid the novel in the freezer because he didn’t want Beth to die.
I did eventually return to the tape, but Eponin’s song with Marius was never the same for me.