On the road with Les Mis and the black-and-white Javert

LES MISERABLES TOUR. Nic Greenshields 'Javert'. Photo Helen Maybanks
LES MISERABLES TOUR. Nic Greenshields 'Javert'. Photo Helen Maybanks

After nearly a decade since the last sell-out UK tour, Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed new production of Les Misérables arrives at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre on Tuesday, October 29 (running until Saturday, November 23).


Playing Javert will be Nic Greenshields – or as Nic prefers to see it, he is the current custodian of the role. A huge part of the pleasure for Nic is the history of the show, the fact that people who saw it when it first came out are now coming back to see it with their grandchildren.


Nic started the tour a year ago this October and will be staying with it until November next year.


“We will be returning to Dublin and Manchester and Birmingham because the demand was so great that there just weren’t enough tickets first time, and then we will be going to Zurich for five weeks.”


Nic admits he ummed and ahhed a little before agreeing to the extension.


“I am the only company member in the show that has got children, so I can’t just say yes I will keep going without consulting my wife. But I am going to stay until November next year.
“It is not too bad. I get to go home for 24 hours every week, and it seems to work quite well.


“And FaceTime helps a lot with speaking to the children. My little girl is five and my little boy is three.”


Alongside all that, Nic knows he has to keep in shape. The show is hugely demanding.


“You really do have to look after yourself, a bit like an athlete.


“As soon as that first piece of music starts, you are going on a three-hour journey, and it does take its toll.


“I go to the gym in the mornings and do some cardio work so I feel I have done something with my day and I will go for a swim and a late lunch and go for a walk, just to try to keep fit and healthy… but it is also important that my whole life doesn’t completely revolve around the entire show.


“You have got to have that balance.


“If you imagine every day we had this same conversation and you ask the same questions and I have to give you exactly the same answers, in a way it is hard for the brain to lock into that.
“Of course, every show is different because every show is live, but you can’t deviate. You can’t suddenly think I am going to do this scene lying on the floor!


“But within these parameters, you can change little things, different dynamics.


“But I use the Big Mac analogy. You have got to ensure that if you are buying a Big Mac in Newcastle, it is exactly the same as a Big Mac in Budapest.


“And that means we have got to constantly rehearse, to keep it fresh. We can’t let it drop. You can’t be offering less of a Big Mac in Dublin than you did in Newcastle.


“And that means you have got to really go for it. Every night I absolutely go for it, 110 per cent.”


It helps that Javert is such a fascinating character: “He sees that there are two types of people: the people that protect society and the people that attack society.
“He was born in a prison himself.


“His mother was a fortune teller and his father worked in the prison galley. Life could have gone very differently for him.


“But he sees everything in very black and white.


“For Javert everything is clear. You broke the law. You stole the loaf. It does not matter that you stole it for your starving family. You broke the law.


“But for Javert it becomes an obsession. He can’t let go. It eats away at him.


“Valjean shows him that the lines are not always straight, that there are different sides of the line and that confuses Javert and everything that he stands for…”


Tickets available on 02380 711811 or online at mayflower.org.uk.

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