Cyrano – Duke’s Playhouse, Lancaster
Saturday 1st April 2017
At just short of three hours’ duration, Northern Broadsides’ touring production of Cyrano engaged all the emotions, with its mix of comedy, romance, music and pathos.
Cyrano is a swashbuckling soldier-poet, in love with his beautiful cousin, Roxane, but convinced that she will never requite his love, owing to his phenomenally prominent hooter.
Christian Edwards (still recognisable under the prosthetic nose as Cosmo from our visit to Singin’ in the Rain) plays Cyrano with the requisite humour, panache and pathos. When Roxane (Sharon Singh) falls in love with the handsome but tongue-tied Christian (Adam Barlow), Cyrano undertakes to provide eloquent and poetic words of courtship on his behalf. A comic highlight is his briefing of his inarticulate love rival on how to woo Roxane. Left to his own devices, the best Christian can come up with is “I want to nibble your neck. Well, it’s alliteration, isn’t it?”
The ruse is successful and Christian marries Roxane, but within hours he and Cyrano are despatched to the siege of Arras. The dangers, hunger, boredom and privations of the siege are beautifully conveyed via a haunting melody “The Song of the Seasons”.
The final scene, 14 years after the siege, where the widowed Roxane finally realises that the dying Cyrano has loved her all along, is hugely affecting.
With high production values in both costume and set design, the play is very well-acted by all involved. Special mention goes to Francesca Mills who is an eye-catching bundle of energy, lighting up the stage in a series of cameo parts: a nifty pickpocket, apprentice baker and gossip-hungry nun. However, there was not a single weak link in the cast, with many playing several parts – and musical instruments. One of the highlights of the play is the original period-style music excellently performed by the very talented cast.
We hope that Northern Broadsides will visit Lancaster on their next tour.
Members of the Theatre Group went to Lancaster to the Duke’s Theatre on 1 April to see a matinée performance of Cyrano. This was an outstandingly good performance by the theatre company Northern Broadsides in association with the New Vic Theatre of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. We mentioned that we had come from far Leyland, but our table-companion told us she had travelled from London to see the performance: clearly, Northern Broadsides have a loyal and extensive following. Having seen them for the first time, I shall watch for their future performances. They are a touring company and take Cyrano to Scarborough, York, the Lowry, Cheltenham, Bury St Edmunds, Halifax, Derby, and Oxford over the next few months.
The dialogue and repartee were witty, and delivered with impeccable timing. Act I is set in Paris in 1640, when France was at war against Spain. Most of the male characters are cadets (junior officers) in the Gascony Guards, so there is plenty of sword-play, very well coached by the appropriately-named Philip D’Orleans. The rustic origins of the Gascons are well suggested by the use of regional northern English accents, while Roxanne, ‘a brilliant and beautiful young woman’ played by Sharon Singh, spoke with a very ‘refined’ Scottish accent. Cyrano, of the unmentionably long nose, was played by Christian Edwards, and dominated the action as ‘wing-man’ and speech-maker for Christian de Neuvillette, ‘the new boy in town’, in inarticulate love with Roxanne. Francesca Mills used her short stature to great advantage, playing an impish pickpocket, apprentice to Ragueneau the Parisian pâtissier poet, and a solemn nun – she held the audience’s attention whenever she appeared. All the other members of the cast gave polished professional performances. When music was required, it was provided by the cast on violin, trumpet, flute or drums. Ligniere, the troubadour guitarist, (played by Michael Hugo) was another comedic continuity character.
The romantic comedy was originally written in rhyming couplets by Edmond Rostand, as a fictionalised account of the real life of Cyrano de Bergerac. Its first performance in Paris in 1897 drew an hour’s applause at the end. There have since been many translations and adaptations in English and USAnian (otherwise called American!), and even one in Azerbaijani, for stage and film performance. This version is a new adaptation in English by Deborah McAndrew. She retains much of the rhyme and gives the play its French flavour by using many of the expressions in Franglais familiar to us all. The result is a fresh portrayal of an everlasting theme. Northern Broadsides performed it with appropriate panache (flamboyant confidence or style or manner). Comments as we left the theatre were that many of us had not known what to expect, but all of us had enjoyed it immensely.