A show called The Miserables in a banal office setting doesn't necessarily sound like an exciting prospect, but this production was in fact refreshingly different and most enjoyable. A caveat, however: it does help to have a reasonable knowledge of the musical Les Misérables. The original score is used for all the numbers in this show, and there are numerous clever little references – without being in on the joke, they might fall a little flat.
It also helps to have experience of the frustrations and irritations that arise from working in an office, although naturally these references are far less niche. The story follows the journeys of Claire, the disillusioned long-standing employee who's leaving for greener pastures (or so she hopes); Beth the new girl who's more interested in her dating life; and their boss, the general manager with marital problems and little self-awareness.
The script and re-worked song lyrics are well written, and combined with the performances, create an experience uncannily evocative of working in this type of setting. And they haven't resorted to copying scenes from the TV series The Office either; the content is bang up to date with material including smartphones, excel spreadsheets and dating apps.
Using the music from one of the best-loved musicals of all time is bound to give a show a certain head start, although it could equally invite unfavourable comparisons or annoy fans. This isn't a parody of Les Mis though: although there’s some reframing of moments from the musical, there's no sense of mockery, but rather one of homage.
The abilities of the cast vary – some are stronger singers than others, although all harmonise well and the group numbers are rousing and impressive. The interpretation of the character of office general manager could benefit from more of a journey; he comes across as weak and a bit too nice. His almost subservient mannerisms are incongruent with the way the script and other characters seem to portray him. That may have been an intentional choice, but as a character I felt he was less believable than the others. Admin girls Claire and Beth work well together and are both convincing – the detail in Beth's mannerisms and responses is especially enjoyable.
This is a great concept for a show, in the main very well done. The office workers we meet may be miserable, but I left feeling anything but. A quirky and entertaining piece, it has the added benefit of being cathartic for anyone who is sick of their 9 to 5 and in need of a good old parody of the daily humdrum.