Wednesday, 23 February 2005

Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand, MTC, Feb 23, 2005

CYRANO DE BERGERAC by Edmond Rostand
Melbourne Theatre Company
Where: Playhouse, Arts Centre, Wed Feb 23 until April 2, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on FEb 23, 2005

Published Herald Sun Feb 25, 2005 in Amusements

`FATE is cruel. I look like a circus but I'm stuffed full of poetry,'' quips
Cyrano de Bergerac in Edmond Rostand's play from 1897.

Simon Phillips' production features David Wenham as
Cyrano, the noble, heroic, churlish French soldier and poet who suffered the indignity and anguish of being born with a ridiculous, enormous nose.

Rostand's play was a throwback to earlier verse plays, but its lyrical, romantic and touching story won French audiences. It remains a classic.

It takes liberties with the real Cyrano's story. Cyrano is secretly in love with his childhood playmate, Roxane (Asher Keddie), but never reveals his love because he knows he's ugly and undesirable.

Instead, Roxane enlists Cyrano's help in her infatuation with Christian (David Lyons), a pretty but stupid soldier in Cyrano's regiment.

Both the comedy and tragedy of Cyrano's unrequited love are played out in the colourful and heartfelt love letters he writes for Christian to send Roxane.

The play can be heartrendingly poignant as well as rollicking, fighting and comical.

This production is entertaining but lacks the emotional range and overwhelming passion of Rostand. The stakes seem too low and sometimes gags interfere with the lyricism and passion.

This might be in part because of the lightness of Andrew Upton's adaptation. It provides funny, modern references and witty rhymes but seems self-consciously contemporary.

These problems may improve as the season goes on. The play is an epic and might need time to even out its bumpy edges.
Wenham is engaging and warm as Cyrano but perhaps a little less dangerous and impassioned than we might expect of the character.

The sword-play is rather tame and the acting is uneven among the soldiers, but there are several strong performances.

Alex Menglet is deliciously eccentric as the poetry-obsessed baker, Ragueneau. Stephen Ballantyne brings warmth to Cyrano's dearest friend, Le Bret, the most realistic character.

As De Guiche, the arrogant commander of the soldier and ardent suitor of Roxane, Hayden Spencer is able to bridge the absurdity of his early foppishness and his later earnestness. Bob Hornery, Gerry Connolly, Julie Eckersley and Carita Farrer all play delightful cameos.

A violinist, Michael Harris, provides vibrant, original, almost gypsy music composed by Ian McDonald.

A vivid, exotic and complex design by Gabriela Tylesova integrates the proscenium arch into diverse scenes.

This production is definitely entertaining but not the definitive, poignant version of Cyrano we might expect. 

By Kate Herbert

Caption:  Nose job: David Wenham (left) as Cyrano with Gerry Connolly.
Illus:  Photo
Column:  Entertainment
Section:  AMUSE
Type:  Theatre Review

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