Although Edmond Rostand's piece is only remotely faithful to History, it will always be one of the most heart-wrenchingly romantic plays ever produced. Written in 1897, it presents the fictional exploits of 17th Century French playwright and duelist Cyrano de Bergerac - hell raiser, fearless swordsman and histrionic poet with a wit as sharp as his blade, whose disfigurement denies him his heart's one desire - the love of his beautiful and clever cousin Roxane. The only way he can express his feelings to her, is by proxy. So he sets out to woo her from behind the shield of conventionally handsome but tongue-tied Christian.
Simon Evans's direction does not slack for a second, maintaining the energy levels intense, and the pace so tightly sustained, that the two and a half hours fly by and you are left wanting more.
Gwilym Lloyd is a truly inspiring Cyrano. He conveys the full force of profound sadness masquerading as bravado and wit. This is a man who feels irreparably defective. His unquestioning certainty that he is simply not entitled to the happiness others consider as a God-given right, gives you a deep pang. Mr Lloyd does not shy away from expressing his character's feeling with unadulterated immediacy.
Iris Roberts is an effervescent Roxane. She grows from girlish 'precieuse' concerned with pure aesthetics, to a woman rendered still by the overwhelming weight of grief. Philip Scott-Wallace is very touching as the handsome but inarticulate Christian. His beautifully understated performance conveys the slow yet perceptive thought process and final despair of his character.
David Mildon gives a subtle performance as Cyrano's confidant le Bret, illustrating the inner conflict of a friend who can do nothing but watch helplessly, as tragedy unfolds. Sam Donnelly demonstrates excellent comic timing as the archetypal villain who redeems himself, de Guiche. Sparkling comedy moments are provided also by Lucy Eaton, as Duenna, and by the rest of the well-matched cast. Kate Matthews's design adds a highly creative quirkiness to the costumes, whilst maintaining a period feel.
For me, Ranjit Bolt's translation is too modern and lacks the elegance of the original. Nevertheless, it captures some of its poetry and is refreshingly punchy. 'Cyrano de Bergerac' is entrancing from start to end. Buy your tickets now, and let yourself be swept away by its message of honour, integrity, uncompromising intelligence and unconditional love.
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