Edmond Rostand adapted by Deborah McAndrew
Northern Broadsides and New Vic Theatre
The Lowry, Salford 18 April 2017 to 22 April 2017
At the heart of Edmond Rostand ‘s classic Cyrano de Bergerac is a love triangle between the title character, his cousin Roxane whom he secretly loves, and the handsome but bland Christian, whose good looks attract Roxane. Adaptor Deborah McAndrew defies convention and, instead of making the title character a grizzled world-weary warrior for whom unrequited love is just another in a list of disappointments, creates a young version of the warrior/poet. Actually, this is not the most contentious feature of Northern Broadsides’s Cyrano.
The adaptation follows the plot of the original. Cyrano de Bergerac (Christian Edwards) is a renowned swordsman, poet, playwright, physician and so on. He is, however, not physically attractive, having a massive nose. Although devastated to learn that his secret love, Roxane (Sharon Singh), fancies the hunky but dim Christian (Adam Barlow), Cyrano’s heroic nature compels him to use his wit to convince Roxane that the object of her passion is cleverer than he seems and so deserves her love.
Some patrons might see Cyrano de Bergerac as one of the greatest love stories in drama. Director Conrad Nelson (who also composed the music) sees the play as a romantic comedy with music and songs and, at times, very broad humour. The opening 30 minutes or so has a bawdy tone, with double entendres and visual gags such as a pickpocket darting from under a lady’s skirt, to the extent that it resembles ‘Carry On Cyrano’.
The comedic tone distorts the structure of the play. Scenes that one might have thought relatively minor become exaggerated. The sequence in which Cyrano distracts a love rival by pretending to have fallen from the moon becomes a full musical number. It is something of a relief in the final third that the adaptation takes a more reflective tone, if only because it gives Andy Cryer the chance to develop De Guiche from a broad villain to a more mature character.
Roxane is not an easy character to enact – she worships intelligence but is very easily deceived. Sharon Singh, therefore, draws out the restless and impulsive aspects of Roxane – she does, after all, sneak through the battlefields to meet her lover. Although cast as a young Cyrano, Christian Edwards brings such a melancholic air to the role that the character actually seems older than his years. Edwards brings a gravity that is absent from much of the production. What is missing, however, is any sense of danger: you never really feel that Cyrano is capable of killing. The ‘duel in verse’ scene, in which Cyrano cruelly toys with an opponent prior to dispatching him, is played for laughs, complete with an oompah band playing throughout.
Cyrano gives modern audiences the chance to see a version of a classic that is easily accessible and very funny. An audience expecting a more conventional approach might find the irreverence does not catch the essential romance of the play.
Reviewer: David Cunningham