Les Miserables review: Put the effort in and this could be a BBC masterpiece

Late last week Netflix went all interactive on us with the latest Black Mirror offering Bandersnatch .

Watching last night’s opening episode of the Andrew Davies version of this oft-adapted Victor Hugo epic, I really wished the BBC had invested in some interactive technology of its own.

Nothing fancy. Just the odd pop-up potted biography explaining who the characters were and how/if they fitted into the overall story.

I’m not saying it was hard to follow, but when David Bradley’s character Gillenormand said of Napoleon’s downfall, “Order is restored – now everyone knows their place again” I had to laugh and say: “Yeah, everyone apart from the viewers.”

I felt even sorrier for anyone sitting at home asking: “When are the songs going to start?”

There aren’t any songs in this adaptation, of course. However, if you are a fan of the musical there’s nothing to stop you adding a little SuBo or Hugh Jackman of your own at the correct time.

If you’re willing to switch your phone off and put the effort in, this could well turn out to be a BBC masterpiece, just as Davies’ 2016 similarly heavy-going adaptation of War & Peace ended up being.

Les Miserables review: Put the effort in and this could be a BBC masterpiece

Dominic West as Jean Valjean
(Image: BBC/Lookout Point/Robert Viglasky)

This opener certainly had some breathtaking scenes, from the grisly aftermath of Waterloo at the start to the dream-like sequence near the end in which ex-convict Jean Valjean decided to choose good over evil.

It had some powerful performances, not least from Dominic West and David Oyelowo as Valjean and his nemesis Javert. And even better news – Olivia Colman is in it from next Sunday.