In tackling Edmond Rostand’s iconic play, first staged in 1897, SF Productions have pulled out all of the stops in sprucing up Cyrano ‘that old chestnut’ De Bergerac in their dynamic and engaging adaptation, jazzing up the original script with Derek Mahon’s 2004 translation. Five actors tackle a staggering sixty roles, chopping and changing between aged peasant, self-parodic thesp, love interest and villain faster than you can say Jack Robinson. The versatility of the talented cast is thoroughly watchable, and just as well too – don’t take your eyes off of the stage for one moment, and keep your wits about you as an audience member… You snooze, you lose the plot in this dizzyingly fast-paced production.
Wisely sticking close to the wonderful original story, the choice of modern day vernacular lingo revitalises the bubbling humour central to Cyrano’s success, with a classy touch of twentieth century va va voom. The comedy of the play is enhanced by some slick and inventive choreography directed by Sarah Perry: the cast embrace the chance to stretch their physicality claws, slipping from atmospheric tableau in choral synchronicity to humorous routines with glee.
As the frenetic energy of multi-characterised, busy scenes can begin to grate, however, nuanced and emotionally honest performances, in particular from Joe Eyre as Cyrano and Anna Maguire as Ragueneau, are well-placed and well delivered. Eyre’s Cyrano blends a cheeky humour with emotional poignancy, physicalised with stage-filling enthusiasm.
Playing with the idea of ‘an obvious theatricality, and a reality created through pretence and play’, the simple design lays the burden of generating the sparkle squarely on the shoulders of the cast, as they engage only with the most evocative and symbolic of props. The simple costume seeks to distinguish the parade of make-believe characters who people world of the play as separate from the five principal characters, humanized and emotionally-driven.
Staged in the intimate Burton Taylor studio, the audience may well be overwhelmed by the density and flamboyance of Cyrano De Bergerac: one feels very much a spectator, and in need of a little more connection and inclusion, especially in the quieter scenes of emotional potency, to really enjoy the show. The promise of a sombre second half will, one hopes, balance well with the frivolities of the first.
With the stellar structure of a favourite story though, a confident cast and a thoroughly thought-out agenda of metatheatre mingled with irreverent fun, I don’t have a doubt that Cyrano De Bergerac knose perfectly well, and rightly so, that it’s worth far more than a scratch.