REVIEW: CYRANO DE BERGERAC ~ Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre

Cyrano’s success as plain as the nose on his face

CYRANO

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The Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre has been delighting its audiences since its launch back in 2010 by champions of Cestrian culture Chester Performs. With nine critically acclaimed productions under its belt, the open air group goes to show it only improves with age as it wows us with this year’s outstanding productions of Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Edmund Rostund’s renowned play follows the tale of the nobleman Cyrano, chief Cadet in the French army’s Gascon company and wordsmith extraordinaire who can melt or enflame a heart by merely opening his mouth; he has nevertheless afflicted by an overly large nose. Our hero’s cousin and secret love, the fair Roxanne, is smitten by a handsome but inarticulate new Cadet and so Cyrano embarks on the heart-breaking quest to woo the lady on his friend’s behalf.

Having previously written for the Grosvenor Park theatre, Glyn Maxwell makes a triumphant return with this striking, new adaption directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace; no mean feat, with the writer having to tackle the original work’s forty three named parts – as well as a host of soldiers, courtiers, poets and more – all inhabiting five utterly different sets, from a baker’s shop to a war-zone, and somehow transform it all into twelve actors performing in one single outdoor space.

Shuffling the play’s chronology, the nun’s from Act V are ingeniously brought forward to the opening (thus seamlessly framing the plot) as they begin to recount the tale of the soldier-bard from some fifteen years before. Before long, we see the nun’s take on the roles of many of those in the story, suddenly arming themselves and donning plumed hats as they riotously merge with other figures that enter now from all directions in sumptuous period costume, along with the titular protagonist himself played by Edward Harrison. The actor’s portrayal of de Bergerac and his legendary panache is superb: sporting a stylised nose cleverly crafted from parchment covered in poetry, Harrison is charismatic, witty and collected with the most perfect theatrical timing.

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Indeed, the whole cast ought to be praised for their stellar performances, not least the nuns with their ever-changing roles; perhaps most notable amongst them being the talented twins Danielle and Nichole Bird. Many of the cast also had a chance to showcase their musical accomplishments: during a rousing and rustic Gascon anthem played to lighten all hearts before battle; Katherine Toy’s pleasing accordion interludes between and even during scenes; the emotive and truly haunting a capella chanting of what seemed to be a Latin mass during the dual between Cyrano and one hundred men, skilfully choreographed in slow motion by Sue Nash.

With actors scaling the seating and livelily interacting with audience members happily picnicking mere feet away, Cyrano de Bergerac is an outstanding performance – at times brimming with humour at others poignant and heart-rending – that is sure to thrill this summer’s theatre goers.

For more information on this or any other performance visit: http://www.grosvenorparkopenairtheatre.co.uk/

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