Les Misérables – Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin

Writer: Alain Boubil & Jean-Marc Natel

Adaptation: Trevor Nunn & John Caird

Music: Claude-Michel Schönberg

Lyrics: Herbert Kretzmer

Direction: Laurence Connor & James Powell

Reviewer: Saoirse Anton

After thirty-three years of near-continuous success, it’s clear that the creators of Les Misérables have done something right, and this touring production from Cameron Mackintosh is not about to buck that trend. In its first Irish outing in over a decade, Les Misérables brings the barricades of early nineteenth-century Paris vividly to life on the stage of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Mackintosh described his 25thAnniversary re-working of the musical as “Les Mis for the 21stCentury,” and in a time where the streets of Paris are occupied with yellow vests, where the chasm between rich and poor is ever-widening, and where the reality of Les Misérables is both distant and not, his words ring true.

Bringing the character of Jean Valjean back to home turf, Killian Donnelly heads up a strong cast with his rich vocal talents. Where Jean Valjean emanates virtue, Nic Greenshields’ Javert is an agonisingly tragic villain watching his world-view, his raison d’être which cast him as the antagonist, crumble before his eyes. While these performances stand out as the epicentre of the piece, Katie Hall as Fantine and Tegan Bannister as Eponine provide powerful, heart-breaking performances. In their roles as Mme and M. Thénardier, Sophie-Louise Dann and Martin Ball create a deliciously horrible comic duo, though there are moments where an over-reliance on an East-End accent and shouted lines causes some of Dann’s lyrics to be lost. Underpinning all of this is a well-directed, tight ensemble who particularly come into their own in the vivid staging of numbers such as “Look Down” and the climactic moments on the barricades.

However, the true stars of this production are its designers. Creating a richly layered, fluid world on stage that suggests the literary form that the story originated in, Paule Constable’s lighting and Matt Kinley’s set and image design are what makes this production stand out. While her design for big scenes like the battle on the barricades are impressive, Constable creates truly striking moments of solitude for characters, particularly in Javert’s final appearance on stage, where nothing is rushed and every necessary detail is precisely captured. Where Constable shines in moments of intimate focus, Kinley’s image design brings unexpected depth and mutability to the stage – capturing the scale of the Parisian setting in both his stunning set and the projections (realised by Fifty-Nine Productions) which are based off Victor Hugo’s own visual artworks.

Schönberg’s captivating sung-through score will be ringing in the ears of Dublin audiences for a long time after they leave the auditorium. With another few years of success in it yet, “The Glums” will leave you anything but.

Runs until 12 January 2019 | Image: Matt Crockett

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The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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