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Les Mis

~ Spectator - 19th October 1985 by Christopher Edwards ~


Two things at least are certain about Les Miserables. The first is that the critics have expressed alarm, disgust and displeasure that the RSC should lend itself (cynically, they would say) to a trite money making venture. The second is that the prodution is sold out, and the auspices for a commercial transfer to all parts of the globe are correspondingly excellent. In these circumstances low expectations are the best ones to hold. When it comes to modern musicals my expectations are of the very lowest. The spectacle tells us nothing much about Victor Hugo's novel. The songs are unmemorable save for one, quite rousing, beer-hall number which buzzed about in my head for a couple of hours after the performance. The story is sentimental and melodramatic, delivered by the cast with enormous gusto and told by the writers with great sententiousness. The plot is perfectly easy to follow with or without the detailed programme note explaining where the action shifts from Digne in 1815 to the Paris barricades in 1832 and who is consumed by thoughts of whom and why. And some of the sets by John Napier are stunning, notably the Paris slum which pivots spectacularly to become a barricade. If musicals are to your taste then this one is slicker than many and no more empty than most.

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