David Lister: These two ought to be starring in 'Les Misérables' themselves

The Week in Arts

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Heaven knows, he's miserable now.

Sir Trevor Nunn, co-director of Les Misérables, seems to have been left out of the 25th anniversary reworking of the show, which is being redirected as a smaller-scale production by a new creative team selected by the show's original producer, Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Nunn and Mackintosh, who can normally be observed on Les Mis anniversaries hugging on stage, have now fallen out in monumental fashion.

Sir Trevor said this week: "Everywhere it is being advertised 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 ... There is no point in beating about the bush. We [the original creative team] are profoundly unhappy and we feel profoundly betrayed and we don't understand. We seek a meeting. We are not given any explanation."

He seeks a meeting. That is a phrase we lesser mortals use. Sir Trevor does not normally have to seek a meeting with Sir Cameron. But maybe the days of easy meets are over, for Sir Cameron subsequently told a reporter: "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. 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 Misérables."

This is quite a spat. Who needs slanging matches between Noel and Liam Gallagher when two of the most eminent people in the arts can be so classily withering with talk of "energies of a younger team" and "a group of assistants".

It's certainly the theatrical falling-out of the year. And maybe Sir Trevor is right that he could have been consulted as a courtesy. But, culturally speaking, Sir Cameron surely has a point, and quite an interesting one. Trevor Nunn, as a great director, has indeed spent his career reimagining existing material. And now, at the age of 70, his own work is itself being reimagined by younger people.

We know that writers and musicians have their work reimagined. But directors, too, can be source material. Why shouldn't world-famous productions be given a new twist by a new talent? But that is a bitter pill for directors of the originals to swallow. It must be really hard for Sir Trevor to let go of his 25-year-old baby, to see it go into the hands of people that he still thinks of as young assistants.

But one-time assistants become top dogs, and 70-year-olds have to hand over the reins. It's a pity that a great theatrical friendship seems to have ended; but Sir Trevor of all people can't be too surprised that art imitates life.

Thatcher should be played by a Brit

I don't have a huge problem with an Italian managing the England football team, but I do wonder about an American playing Margaret Thatcher. Meryl Streep has signed up to play her in a new film, which, I understand, will be about Lady Thatcher's life now rather than, as widely reported, during the Falklands crisis. Meryl Streep is a consummate actress, though if the part is to go to an American I think that Glenn Close doing her ice-cold Damages act would be pretty near perfect.

We live, admittedly, in an age of internationalism in casting, but surely there is a case for a British Prime Minister, particularly this one, being played by a British actress. Lindsay Duncan has played her on TV, and would do the job well. But I can think of no one better than Helen Mirren. Some will say that it might look bizarre to go from playing the Queen to playing Margaret Thatcher. But if you think back to the 1980s, there were times when that seemed the natural order of things.

Icons could have us going down the Tube

There has been some consternation in Moscow about a decision to name a metro station after Dostoevsky. The station, called Dostoyevskaya, is decorated with brooding grey and black mosaics which depict violent scenes from the novelist's best-known works.

One mural re-enacts the axe murder from Crime and Punishment. Another shows a suicide-obsessed character in The Demons holding a pistol to his temple. To brighten further the passengers' mood, shadow-like characters are shown flitting across the station's walls, and a giant mosaic of a depressed-looking Dostoevsky stares out at passengers. Critics are calling the station a "suicide mecca", clearly believing that passengers will be inspired to end it all in the morning rush hour.

But I rather like the idea of naming and designing stations after depressive cultural icons. It would certainly fit my mood on my daily journeys on a depressingly rubbish Tube service. I'd name the entire revamped Circle Line after Bob Dylan songs, with the desperately confusing interchange at Edgware Road more than earning the title Desolation Row.

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