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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | July 15, 2020

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Hayden Tee Brings Order and Light to Les Misèrables

Hayden Tee Brings Order and Light to Les Misèrables

| On 03, Dec 2015

Les Misèrables is dazzling Brisbane audiences on the last stop of its award-winning Australian tour. As Javert, the unrelenting and much put-upon police inspector, Hayden Tee is the Law, and the Law caught up with us to talk about the show and life on stage.

When I meet him, Tee is fresh from performing and has just transformed from the Parisian police’s fiercest weapon to a tremendously personable New Zealander in a very sharp suit. He also bears the unmistakable signs of someone spending an unusually hot Brisbane summer in a heavy costume overcoat. “I arrived a little earlier than some of the others,” he says. “I like to get somewhere and acclimatise – not that I can say I’ve acclimatised yet: it’s pretty hot.” The oppressive weather aside, he’s gratifyingly enthusiastic about being based in Brisbane for the last few months of the show. “I’m loving it though, it’s fabulous. The weather’s amazing, the food’s amazing, the restaurants are amazing, bars are great, people are really friendly—what more could you want?”

 

Hayden Tee Int 4

 

Tee has been playing Javert for nearly a year and a half now and his command of the role is breathtaking. From lofty disdain in the opening scenes, to a transcendentally good Stars, to a wrenching final soliloquy, his is a Javert of exceptional depth and world-class quality. After so many performances, I wonder if Tee’s approach to the character has changed at all.

“I think every single performance is different, it has to be – or not has to be, it just ends up that way, because if someone delivers a line slightly differently, you react differently and then you’re off on a whole other journey,” he says. “But it’s still within the parameters of what the show needs, at the end of the day, the thing that hasn’t changed is Javert still wants to go out there and get justice and find Jean Valjean – so in that respect, it’s still the same.”

However, there’s no denying that after sixteen months together the company have matured into one of the finest currently on stage. They’ve also become quite close-knit. Simon Gleeson (who plays Valjean) and Tee are famously good friends, a bond which – somewhat paradoxically – aids their onstage antagonism. “It’s easier,” Tee says, “because then you don’t have to worry about offending someone and you don’t have to worry about, you know, ‘Oh, I don’t know how they’re going to take this’. We can just go for gold knowing that we’re great mates.”

 

Hayden Tee Int 7

Tee (left) with Patrice Tipoki (Fantine) and Simon Gleeson (Valjean).

 

 

Les Misèrables has just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary; over the past three decades the show has played in forty-two countries and over three hundred cities. Amongst so many predecessors, Tee has a favourite – Philip Quast, “the definitive Javert” – but has also strived to bring something new to the classic role.

“I didn’t want to copy anyone, I wanted to make it my own, but I didn’t want to do what some actors go out there (and do) – not with this role, but with other roles – and make it different for the sake of difference. I wanted to just forget everything I’d seen and just approach it as if I was the first person and then I think – I think I’ve ended up with something kind of unique.”

At the heart of this hugely successful and highly awarded portrayal is the firm belief that Javert is very much the hero of his own story. “He’s pretty black and white, his objectives are incredibly clear and his convictions are incredibly clear. But at the end of the day, it’s all about religion, largely, and just justice for him,” Tee says. “I don’t know the stuff that happens that I don’t see on stage, as Javert. As far as I’m concerned, Jean Valjean stole the loaf of bread, Jean Valjean actually in the book escapes from prison seven times. He (Javert) doesn’t see any of this stuff that the audience are privy to see, so I think that I just have to go out there as if Javert’s the hero and he’s (Valjean’s) the baddie. And I actually think he is the hero,” he laughs.

 

Hayden tee int 9

 

This is Tee’s second time with the musical, having ten years ago played Marius in London. When the Australian production closes in January, he’s going to make it three, transferring to New York to join the Broadway cast.

“It’s my Broadway debut, so I’m so thrilled, I’m so excited. I’m nervous, of course, but I’m just so excited.” When I ask what he’s most looking forwards to, the answer is broad. “Everything. I’m looking forward to everything. I’m looking forward to New York, I’m looking forward to the Imperial Theatre. It’s going to be kind of surreal walking on stage and seeing everyone in the same places wearing the same costumes, but different people. But it’s all exciting and it’s a clean start. Obviously, actors, we’re gypsies, we move countries a lot and the thing is we get an opportunity to reinvent ourselves every time we do that, so I’m sort of excited to evolve as a person.”

With the show having sold out up and down the country, and the story’s obvious longevity, there has been a lot of discussion about why audiences are still connecting to Les Misèrables. I was curious, however, about what draws actors to the show. For Tee, at least, it seems he’s on the stage for the same reason we’re in the stalls, a reason stated by the novel’s foreword – as long as there is suffering in the world, works such as this cannot fail to be of value

“It’s so thorough, it’s so beautifully written, the music is so emotive, but also the text is so important – and the thing that I really love about it is that it’s an important story to tell. You’re saying something that’s relevant, that’s timeless and it’s an important story. You want people to be affected by this because I think something like Les Mis – it makes the world a better place.”

 

THE DETAILS

What Les Misèrables

Where Lyric Theatre, QPAC

When 10th Nov, 2015 – 17th Jan, 2016

How Much $55 – $149.95

For more information or to book tickets, head to QPAC’s website here.

 

Image Credit: Matt Murphy.