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BWW Interview: Simon Gleeson On Playing Jean Valjean In LES MISÉRABLES

Australian actor Simon Gleeson's extensive musical theatre credits include Far Pavilions, Eureka, Mamma Mia! and Love Never Dies. He's currently starring as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre.

Simon Gleeson

What was the first musical you saw?

I think it was The Pirates of Penzance. My father was a member of an amateur theatre company and he played the Pirate King. His wig was something to behold.

Did you do a lot of acting at school?

Yes, although I didn't study it as a subject. I was involved with the school plays and musicals as an extracurricular activity. They were well supported by the school and I went through with quite a few students who have ended up making a career out of acting.

When did you think about it as a career option, and how did your family react?

I always knew I wanted to be an actor - I just wasn't sure how to go about it. My parents urged me to get a degree in something 'safer'. Since they'd paid for my education I thought it only fair to give it a go. So I did a year of Business, Banking and Finance and then studied acting. I think I'd have been financially richer following a corporate career but poorer in almost every other way.

Where did you study?

I studied at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

What was your first paid acting job?

Coincidentally, it was Les Miserables. I was in my final year at WAAPA and they chose me and another classmate to join the company. She was my best friend and is now my wife.

How well did you know Les Mis when you auditioned?

So well I could probably have sung it backwards.

How do you put your own stamp on an iconic role like Jean Valjean?

By ignoring the icon and approaching it like any other role. It's easier said than done. But striving to put an individual stamp on a role is as flawed as deliberately mimicking someone else's interpretation.

How much of a challenge is it, vocally and dramatically, compared with other parts you've played?

It's the most vocally demanding role I've played, not just because of the amount of singing but because of the various parts of the voice it utilises. Dramatically, it's one of the most rewarding roles to play.

What's your favourite number to perform?

The epilogue.

What does it mean to you to play the part in London?

I've done a few shows here and I love working in London. To be a small part of the history of Les Mis in London is very special.

How are you finding the city? Any favourite places to hang out or explore?

We lived here for about five years so I know the city well. It's great to go back to our favourite spots. My first port of call in London is always Monmouth Coffee.

Any future ambitions?

Where do I start? I spent ten years doing predominantly original work, which I adored. The next step is to create my own work. The roles I want to play haven't been written yet. There are numerous people I'd like to collaborate with across various genres. But for now, I'm very happy on the barricade.

Finally, why do you think Les Mis is so enduring?

Because it so beautifully investigates what it is to be human. It's wonderful storytelling with arguably the best score of all time.

Les Miserables currently booking at the Queen's Theatre until 14 October. Book tickets here

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