by Grainne Renihan and Ciaran Bowling
Grainne Renihan: I have payed Fantine in Les Miserables on numerous occasions at London’s Palace Theatre. My first contract was in 1989, when I left the Prince Edward Theatre where I was playing Florence in Chess. I was joined by my sister Lizzy Renihan, who was 16 at the time and cast as an Eponine/Cosette cover. I knew the music of Les Mis but had never seen the show. Fantine was a role that just sat really well with me.
Her story is a gift for any actress, and vocally, it was a dream to sing. I went away to do other shows, during which time I met my husband, Daniel Bowling, while we were doing Cats together: him as the Musical Director and me as Grizabella. As a newly married couple we ended up in Les Mis together, with him as the Music Director. During my 1996-97 contract, I became pregnant with my son, Ciaran Bowling, but continued with the show for five months.
My husband continued on in Les Mis but as Musical Supervisor. In 2001, I returned to the show and Daniel used to take Ciaran to watch my scenes from the sound desk.
Ciaran Bowling: I’ve been in the London production for two years, and I was lucky enough to close the original London production at the Queens Theatre (soon to be renamed the Sondheim Theatre). My earliest memories as a kid were watching my mum playing Fantine. Apparently, one night after Fantine dies I turned to my dad and asked if mum was really dead, to which he laughed and whispered “no it’s a musical, it’s not real.”
This was my introduction to theatre. Growing up, I have been lucky enough to see my mum play numerous roles, so the fact that we are now going to be in this musical together is insane. We get on so well with each other and I think it’s going to be a great experience. Les Miserables is a show that virtually my entire family has been involved with and now things have come full circle.