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Interview with David Thaxton: The Dream Becomes Reality

18 June 2014 Charlie Kenber

“At the end of this year, I will have been a professional actor for ten years and I’ll have been in Les Mis for five of them.”

After many years performing in Les Misérables in the ensemble and as smaller roles, David Thaxton is finally getting his crack at the leading role of Javert this month. We caught up with him ahead of the cast change…

London Calling: So how did your return to Les Misérables come about? Is it something that you’ve always wanted to go back to?

David Thaxton: Jean Valjean and Javert are two roles that I’d always have loved to play, and that I’ve always thought about. But I think it’s certainly come sooner than I’d thought it might have come.

LC: Does it feel strange playing different parts in the same show?

DT: Yes, it’s very disconcerting, really really odd! I realised the other day that at the end of this contract, at the end of this year, I will have been a professional actor for ten years and I’ll have been in Les Mis for five of them, doing lots and lots of different things.

It’s very strange. At the minute I’m having to focus myself on going ‘no you’re playing Javert now, you’re playing that role!’

LC: You’ve also spent all those years watching other people play Javert. Does it make it difficult to bring something new to the character?

DT: Yes. Before I started I was very wary!

I’m maybe a little younger than Javert normally is, so there’s a different physicality and a different way of getting it all on its feet. It’s actually been much easier than I thought it’d be!

It can be very easy to slip into what is familiar to you, but it’s actually gone really well. I’m very much enjoying what I’ve found.

LC: Why do you think Les Mis is so popular? What makes it so iconic?

DT: I’ve thought about this a lot: for me the music obviously and the set and direction are fantastic. There’s a reason why it’s the longest running musical in the world, it’s because that version we’ve got in town is just this amazing collaboration of people at the very top of their game.

The one fundamental thing it has is the story – it’s just the most amazing story ever, and it has everything in it. So there’s something for everyone.

The creators all those years ago took that amazing story and did it justice so you can’t really fail! When you’ve got something that’s so fantastic that’s done so well.

LC: Are you still able to find new things in the show?

DT: There’s a lot of stuff that’s changing. We’re very lucky because we’ve got John Caird one of the original directors in and he’s changing loads of stuff. Nothing that the average Les Mis fan would particularly notice, but just getting rid of things that have no relevance or are unnecessary.

It also means that for the company that are staying who have been in it for a while, it reinvigorates it and keeps it fresh.

In terms of doing a show eight times a week, that’s part of your job on a long-running show, to keep things fresh for you, and to keep your intentions clear, and to make sure you’re on top of every part of what you do to serve your part of the story.

It’s a difficult thing that you wouldn’t get if you’re doing a shorter run.

LC: Do you find the audiences different on the West End compared to other London venues?

DT: I think with certain places you can get the type of audience that are on the mailing list, and lots of people will book up for it perhaps not knowing what it is.

With something like Les Mis it is different, because it’s not just a piece of theatre it’s also very literally a national institution. It’s a tourist attraction as well as a show, which is great. So you get people coming to see it because…if you’re going to go and see a big show in the West End then what are you going to see? You’re going to see Les Mis.

But also things have changed since I was in it before because the film has come out and that’s added a whole new thing to what we’re doing now which is really exciting, really great.

LC: Have you kept count of how many performances you’ve done?

DT: I can imagine it’s do about 400 or something a year so it’s probably 1200 ish. Or something like that! It’s certainly four figures.

But it’s that kind of a show, there’s plenty of people in this cast now who’ve done it here in London or over the world who’ve come back into the same roles or stepped up and done new things.

LC: Can you imagine staying for another few years ? Or will you go off and do other things?

DT: That’s tricky. It’s impossible to say. There’s only the two roles in it for me now and I’m going to play one. But there is always Jean Valjean – that’s everyone’s dream to play Jean Valjean. One day!

The new cast take over on Les Misérables from 16th June. The show is currently booking at the Queen’s Theatre until 25 April 2015. Tickets cost £12.50 - £67.50, available here.

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