Les Miserables taken back to basics at the Mill

A scene from Les Miserables starring Adrian Preater, left

A scene from Les Miserables starring Adrian Preater, left

First published in Entertainment

Nothing less than epic, the Hollywood blockbuster brought Les Miserables firmly back into the public domain to such an extent that many are now unaware that it was based on the novel written by Victor Hugo.

Yet it is the novel alone which Adrian Preater has based his new play on, and which he is enormously proud of.

Coming to Banbury’s Mill on Wednesday, this is stripped-down Victor Hugo, born from Adrian’s pure passion for the 19th-century French literary classic, which he adapted after reading the tome from cover to cover. No mean feat as it turns out and an enormous project to undertake.

“Yes, it took me three months to read, let alone adapt,” he laughs.

“But I was always going to take a different line because there are so many events that take place which we can illustrate, that aren’t in the musical, things which are enormously moving.”

So was he inspired by the need to get back to basics?

“Even our show has been billed wrongly as an adaption of the musical, so yes, some people need reminding and everyone else just thoroughly enjoys it for what it is.”

And having worked backstage at Les Miserables – the West End musical version – Adrian knew the former’s script off by heart.

“I thought I knew the story really well so it was a surprise to find out how complex the novel is and the web of relationships in it. It’s so much more than a story and moved me to tears five or six times when I read it.”

Was it the time he invested?

“Yes, partly, and the enormous injustice of it all. It was such a big journey that when I had finished it I felt like I’d run the marathon,” Adrian admits. “So I felt it was important to get the story out and pick out the scenes that are so exciting and moving for the stage.”

Where do you start?

“Well I read the book and then sat back and thought about what the story was about, and which events stuck in my mind. And then I had to put all that together into 90 minutes, so we had our work cut out,” he says.

The result is a cast of five playing just 12 characters, and the reviews have been stunning.

“We have had a really great response,” Adrian agrees. “But my intention with Hotbuckle Productions was always to do the classics and make them as accessible as possible through great acting and minimum stage and sets. So I’m pleased to be where I am.”

Having cut his teeth in 2012 on Great Expectations, Adrian is already planning next year’s David Copperfield, while his adaption of Dr Zhivago is on ice. So why Les Miserables then?

“I chose Les Mis because it had that almost Dickensian feel in the richness of the characters and the layers of the stories.

And the 49-year-old grins: “Plus, from an entirely selfish point of view, my first love is acting and while starring in my own productions made economic sense, I thoroughly enjoy it, so now that I could step back, I’m still very hands-on and want to be in the story.”

Les Miserables is at The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury, on Wednesday May 22. Call 01295 279002.

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