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REVIEW: Les Miserables

PUBLISHED: 15:54 06 October 2010 | UPDATED: 11:13 14 October 2010

Ashley Artus as Thenardier and Lynne Wilmot as Madame Thenardier        Picture: Michael Le Poer Trench

Ashley Artus as Thenardier and Lynne Wilmot as Madame Thenardier Picture: Michael Le Poer Trench

WHEN Les Miserables first opened (to somewhat critical reviews) at the Barbican in 1985, nobody imagined that it would transfer to the West End for a glorious 25-year run. Now producer Cameron Mackintosh

LES MISERABLES, Barbican, Silk Street, EC2

WHEN Les Miserables first opened (to somewhat critical reviews) at the Barbican in 1985, nobody imagined that it would transfer to the West End for a glorious 25-year run.

Now producer Cameron Mackintosh has brought Les Mis back home to where it all began, with a new production at the intimate Barbican theatre.

Gone are the massive set-pieces in this somewhat pared-down production.

But in no way does that take away from the tear-jerking tale of ex-convict Jean Valjean (John Owen-Jones) as he strives to achieve redemption while revolutionary fervour sweeps early 19th-century France.

In fact, the atmospheric backdrops based on 19th-century author Victor Hugo's own paintings, together with the giant projections of Parisian catacombs, lend a moody haunting feel to the stage.

And the musical numbers are just as powerful as they ever were - particularly Owen-Jones' achingly evocative plea for Marius' survival in Bring Him Home.

Owen-Jones must be singled out for particular praise for his powerful portrayal of the tortured Valjean - and the interplay between him and his tormentor, the police inspector Javert (again, an excellent performance by Earl Carpenter), is superb.

Even Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates is impressive - and admirably un-poppy - as the lovestruck Marius.

But there is one criticism - and that is that the story of the French students and their doomed revolution never really packs enough of an emotional punch.

I even struggled to shed a tear when Rosalind James' tragic Eponine (who had an unfortunate tendency to sometimes lapse into X Factor-style singing) was shot to death as she clambered over the barricade.

But nitpicking aside, this is a wonderfully impressive production - and a worthy celebration of Les Mis's 25th anniversary.

- MEYREM HUSSEIN


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