Cyrano – Review – York Theatre Royal
Cyrano – Review
York Theatre Royal, April 2017
by Roger Crow
When Cyrano de Bergerac was written in 1897, I doubt Edmond Rostand thought that to hear his tale to its best advantage, it needs to be performed by a bunch of actors from the north of England.
Cyrano, the latest feather in the chapeau of Northern Broadsides’ repertoire, is of course magnificent because we’re more likely to warm to their version than Gerard Depardieu’s art house movie, which looked gorgeous but rarely gets an airing on TV these days. It may as well have been consigned to the same dusty vault as certain episodes of Top of the Pops.
Despite the rhyming couplets, there’s a musical quality to many of the voices on stage tonight, not just the eponymous big nosed protagonist. And music plays a key part in gluing scenes together. It’s impressive that many of the actors can recall the complex script; hit their mark, and the right notes; play musical instruments as well as multiple parts.
I love the simplicity of the set: elegant backdrops which remind me of the classical feel of Terry Gilliam’s under-rated The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Oliver Reed’s scene-stealing turn in that movie as Vulcan, a Yorkshire God of war, makes me realise how good this would be on film, with the same cast, script and Gilliam’s direction.
“Juggles comedy and drama with the skill of a court entertainer”
I’m not surprised Lenny Henry felt at home with Northern Broadsides when he played Othello. The company has that knack of knocking down the walls of pretence, or opening the doors to any great works for the masses.
I’m gobsmacked that the superb script is the same Deborah McAndrew who played Angie Freeman in Coronation Street. Then again, that show has long been a training ground for some of the best talent in the business, even if the most obvious graduates appear in front of the camera or on stage.
Christian Edwards is outstanding as Cyrano. He handles the verbal gymnastics with assured skill. His comic timing is excellent and he conveys the charisma and soul of the warrior poet with stunning ability. At first, Sharon Singh’s Roxane catches me off guard. I’d expected her to be more of a fan-waving retiring violet than the outspoken Scots heroine projecting to the back of the theatre. However, in a world dominated by men, Roxane would have to be more than just beautiful to capture Cyrano’s heart. That fiery grit ensures their ’romance’ over the course of the show rings true.
The rest of the cast are terrific. Adam Barlow’s Christian juggles comedy and drama with the skill of a court entertainer; The Force Awakens veteran Francesca Mills is stunning in multiple roles, and while I could list each individual cast member, I’ll just suggest you go and see the show instead.
“Still touches a chord with the masses”
My knowledge of the classic play stems more from the films inspired by it, whether it’s Steve Martin’s sublime reworking Roxanne or The Truth About Cats and Dogs. So seeing how things play out is compelling and heartbreaking.
Though there’s too little of a gap between the final seconds and the cast bows (that sucker punch ending needed more time to sink in), Edmond Rostand would have approved of the fact his moving, often hilarious tale still touches a chord with the masses so long after his death.
At around 165 minutes including interval, this version could have done with a little trimming, but there’s no danger of punters feeling short changed.
’By ’eck, it’s très bon’ as the bilingual say round these parts.