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The University of Sussex

 14 March 2002 

Victor Hugo's 200th birthday celebrated with drama premiere

The premiere of a drama to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of French novelist, playwright and poet Victor Hugo is being held in Brighton this month.

Leopoldine, written by Dr Sandra Freeman, a senior lecturer in French at the University of Sussex, focuses on a tragic episode in Hugo's life and the consequences it had on his writing. It is being performed at the Komedia in Gardner Street on March 24 and 25.

"Victor Hugo is known here largely because of his works, Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame," explains Dr Freeman. "But in France he is primarily thought of as a poet. When his daughter Leopoldine died suddenly, it left him unable to write. But ten years later, while exiled from France for political activities, he made contact with her sprit. She was the inspiration for his finest collection of poems."

The play, which is being performed by Brighton actors Simon Harvey, Joanne Howarth and Dione Inman, is set in 1853, but moves backwards and forwards in time to cover various aspects of Hugo's life. "It is a play about the guilt and sorrow or losing someone you love," says Dr Freeman. It also features several of Hugo's lyrically beautiful poems spoken in their original French.

Dr Freeman, who is the convener for a degree course in European drama, has had some 20 plays performed, both on the stage and on radio. Most of them have been about people who have inspired her, including Jane Austen, the French author Collette and the philosopher Nietzche.

"I have always been fascinated by other people's lives and have wanted to tell others and about these lives," she adds. "Victor Hugo was an exceptional man. He showed a gift for poetry from a young age, and was famous by his 20s. For a long time I have been keen to write a play based on the poetry he wrote following his daughter's death. The bicentenary of his birth seemed a good time to do it."

 Notes for editors 

For further information, please contact Alison Field or Peter Simmons, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, or

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