Les Miserables

4
Latest touring production seen at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
By Robert Iles

Like many people, I have seen this show multiple times including a couple of times at the Palace, once at the Queens (now Sondheim) and as part of its previous tour. To be honest, I adored the original and had become increasingly less impressed as "versions" progressed so I was very interested, if a little trepidatious, to see this version. I needn't have worried, this is a rethought, redeveloped, revamped production - a new production for a new audience, fast, slick, visually impressive and engaging.

This is quite a long show but the time passes swiftly and the large cast, mobile set and projections keep the pace bouncing along. The projections, with the exception of the sewer, are extremely effective to move us around and create an atmosphere. The voices are universally excellent, with Nic Greenshields' Javert, Nathania Ong's Eponine and (on this performance) Will Barratt's Jean Valjean being particularly excellent. Paige Blankson's Cosette was more operatic than the rest and at first it didn't seem to fit but as I got used to it I could fully understand why that decision was made as it gave her an "otherness" that worked really well. A big shout out to our Gavroche - such stage presence and confidence in one so young without a hint of over-playing it.

A good size orchestra ensures a full sound whilst the ensemble work their socks off. The set is a very clever beast, from simple interiors to street scenes to the iconic barrier it is all handled exceptionally well. Perhaps the lighting could be a little subtler but overall the visuals are a real match for the sounds - the show works really well as a whole.

So why only 4 stars? Ok, that's a personal thing as I find the direction a little grating as so much is sung "to the audience" rather than into the story. It is a musical, I get that, and a degree of cheating the staging is absolutely necessary, but as with the newer London versions, it feels like people are auditioning as they step out of the action to stage front then engage with, and sing to, the audience with no semblance of still being in the action. It is clearly a production/directorial decision but it jars for me. 

All that said, this is a great night out and the audience left really buzzing. Whether this will be your first or your twentieth Les Mis I would heartily recommend going to see it!


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