Here is my first review of Chester Performs Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre productions.
I had the great pleasure of watching Cyrano De Bergerac last week. The house was full and with people from all walks of life, not exclusively *middle-aged and middle class* as some would have it. They had come prepared with picnics bursting with food and drink. In fact, I’m sure I saw someone with portable cocktail bar and I definitely saw someone with a fly swatter – it was blue, for your information.
However, I digress….
I thought I knew this tale, however it turns out that the film comedy *Roxanne*, starring Steve Martin, wasn’t a faithful reproduction of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play. And, I could have sworn I’d seen the French film adaptation starring the Manatee of Love, Gérard Depardieu, but given the play’s ending, I must have imagined it. Clearly, I was not ready for the comedic, romantic and tragic tale that gently unfolded before me.
Back to the review…
This is the tale of the eponymous poet swordsman; a man of many gifts yet riddled with self-doubt due to his unfeasibly large nose. The play focuses on Cyrano’s unrequited love for his distant cousin, the beautiful and cultured Roxanne. Through his desire to please his cousin, Cyrano helps Christian, a dumbstruck young buck, woo his beloved Roxanne – imagine Umberto Eco acting as wing man to David Beckham to woo Rachel Weisz and you get the picture. Throw in Cyrano’s gift for making enemies, the small matter of war and another jealous and powerful suitor, and you have an epic tale of love, derring-do and death.
We should take a moment here to celebrate the script. Glyn Maxwell’s writing bristles with wit and erudition, skilfully weaving modern references – mainly at the expense of the Church – into a script so tight it could peel an orange in its pocket. Like our eponymous hero, Maxwell is man of many talents, equally at home with comedy, poetry and tragedy. This man deserves an even bigger stage.
A great script, however, longs for a company that can turn its words into a stellar performance, and this cast does so with brio. Edward Harrison’s portrayal of Cyrano is full of panache, beautifully capturing the complexity of a fragile yet courageous man who climbs alone, his own worst enemy. Owen Findlay charms as Christian, full of humour, vulnerability and, eventually, honour. He is, if I can mix my phrases, all fur coat and no brains. Sally Scott gives Roxanne an almost ethereal quality, of being almost too good to be true, yet capable of stirring many a man to polish his couplets. The supporting cast adroitly and resolutely embrace several roles, switching effortlessly from nun to nobleman to solider throughout. The choreography, particularly the slow-motion fight scene, adds a further, unexpected dimension, making it the complete package.
I won’t spoil the plot with further details but if the finale does not move you, then you are dead on the inside (and dead to me). My sleeve was a little damp at the end, and we’ll leave it at that.
You can still catch Cyrano De B if you get your skates on. Buy your ticket and find out if love truly is blind.
PS You pronounce our hero’s name Cy-ra-no and not Cy-raa-noo, as I had previously believed. Show you’re *in the know* by adopting this pronunciation and liberally throwing into conversation as you enter the round.