Credit: Les Miserables

Review: Les Miserables @ Glasgow’s Theatre Royal

By Hannah Morley

Hannah Morley gives her thoughts on the historical musical, comparing the experience to previous reincarnations.

This was not my first time venturing into the theatrical magic of Les Miserables. My first experience was in January 2020 at London’s Sondheim theatre. The second time was in London again in June of this year, and the third visit closer to home in Glasgow. Currently, the UK tour’s main stars are Dean Chisnall as Jean Valjean, Nic Greenshields as Javert, Katie Hall as Fantine, Will Callan as Marius, Paige Blankson as Cosette and Samuel Wyn-Morris as Enjolras. 

Les Miserables is known to be a sad tale, hence the title. Fantine is one of the many characters who meet a fatal end, and Katie Hall performed like she was born to play the part; it was outstanding. When she sang I Dreamed a Dream, tears caressed my cheeks. Her most poignant scene occurred when at rock bottom, scolding Valjean for turning his back on her. Never has a Les Mis performance elicited such emotion within me before; the performance she gave was first-class. 

However, that is nothing compared to Will Callan who has the biggest tear-jerker of them all. I always dread Marius’s soliloquy, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. I can never fully prepare myself for what is coming. It was the only time during the performance that I was silently begging for it to be over. Not because it was bad, but because I always turn into a sobbing mess at the scene and it can be slightly embarrassing when in public. But this is where the Covid restrictions come in handy; the face mask is a handy contraption for hiding your face and absorbing some of the tears.  

“The face mask is a handy contraption for hiding your face and absorbing some of the tears.”

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Ian Hughes and Helen Walsh do a fantastic job as Thénardier and his wife, the con artists trying to swindle everyone they meet out of their valuables. It is well inserted comic relief as it helps to break up the seriousness of the rest of the musical. Personally, my favourite character is Javert. Nic Greenshields portrays him wonderfully, bringing a wonderful depth to the villain of the piece. With the power and emotion he evokes in Javert, you can’t help but feel for the character by the time it gets to his soliloquy at the end.

This is something that Les Miserables brings out of the viewer. We don’t just root for the heroes, there is something more. We want Jean Valjean to succeed, and we want Marius to live. But we also revel in the misdeeds of Thénardier, and the zealousness of Javert. And what brings it all together is the epic score that brings the story to life for the audience.

This show has been going on for 37 years, and I can see it continuing production for another 37 years. So, if you ever get the chance, buy a ticket to Les Miserables, and don’t forget your tissues.

Les Miserables is no longer performing at the Glasgow Theatre Royal, however, the show is touring the UK throughout 2022 until early 2023 with tickets available here.


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