Wednesday, June 30

Nunn versus Mackintosh on "new" Les Miserables production

Talking to the Daily Telegraph about his current project Aspects of Love which previews at the Menier Chocolate Factory next week, Trevor Nunn mentioned that he was less than happy with his old colleague Cameron Mackintosh over a 25th-anniversary production of Les Misérables.

Nunn launched the RSC production of the musical 25 years ago at the Barbican, and this September the re-directed touring version of Les Miserables starring Gareth Gates as Marius (which is described as a “new production”) will return there. Nunn insists it is nothing of the sort.

“If John Caird [co-director] and John Napier [designer] and myself had been asked to do a revised version of Les Misérables that could tour the country and tour other countries in a way that didn’t involve a revolving stage, which makes the touring very difficult, we would joyously have accepted. We would have kept all of the ingredients that we originally invented, and we would have found slightly different solutions staging-wise.

We were not asked. In fact, we knew nothing of it. We were kept in the dark. People who were asked were an assistant director of John Caird’s and mine working on the show and John Napier’s assistant who had worked for John Napier many times in different productions abroad of Les Misérables. Those people were asked to become a new production team. It is being advertised everywhere as a new production. It is not a new production. It is a variant production that owes everything that’s good about it to the original production. And everything that’s not so good about it, and is uncomfortable about it, is the work of a group of assistants”.

Nunn has no idea why Mackintosh handed the show over to two directors who first joined the show as cast members. Nunn went on to say: “There is no point in beating about the bush. We are profoundly unhappy and we feel profoundly betrayed and we don’t understand. We seek a meeting. We are not given any explanation. What’s so extraordinary is that, in the year when the 25th anniversary of the original production is being celebrated, the same logo and the same strapline is being used for the new production. So we are also very confused. It’s completely bewildering. And the most bewildering thing – and this is not vanity or hubris – is why something inferior has been created when something superior could have been created.

Cameron Mackintosh’s response to Nunn’s outburst has been: “I am saddened by Trevor's inaccurate and ungracious remarks. I am very proud of the 1985 production that I invited Trevor to direct with John Caird. That Les Mis has become an enduring classic around the world is a testament to the work that Trevor and John did as adaptors and directors. 

However, after 25 years, I wished to create a new production that reflected the contemporary appeal of the musical today and it seemed right to engage the energies of a new younger team to do this. I believe that each new generation has to be able to put its own stamp on great material.

Over 18 months ago and at every subsequent stage we informed Trevor and John Caird and John Napier of our plans. It is wholly untrue that they were in any way 'kept in the dark'. It is bewildering to me that Trevor Nunn who has spent much of his brilliant career reimagining existing material should be questioning the right of others to do so with Les Miserables.

Les Miserables is still running at the Queen’s Theatre, has the “new” touring production about to come into the Barbican and is also staring a 25th Anniversary Concert at the 02 Arena in October.


Anonymous said...

I'm always amazed at people who want to keep shows exactly the same each time a new production is mounted of the same show. Having said that, often times changes are made just for the sake of changing....without rhyme or reason.

I think it was wrong of Cameron to NOT contact the original team first to talk about what THEY see doing in a new production. If all they wanted to do was mount the same version again, THEN move on. I certainly saw very little new in Cameron's "My Fair Lady."

But if Cameron wants something completely new, why is he hiring people who have done the show before? Why not start over with completely fresh eyes? Producers get so stuck with using the same people over and over when there is a huge world of talented artists out there dying for work.

Theatre Spy said...

I agree. I have worked as casting director with a number of directors over the years and unfortunately they all have their "favourites". And it's easier to go for the safer bet of actors they've already worked with!

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