Saturday, 16 May 2009

Cyrano de Bergerac - Chichester Festival Theatre

Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostad
Adapted by Anthony Burgess
Director: Trevor Nunn
Reviewer: John Roberts

The story of undying love is timeless and has resonated through societies throughout time. It is perhaps this same feeling that we all have at one time in our lives, that draws and compels us to witness the story of Cyrano unfold in-front of us, making it one of the most performed plays in the theatrical world.

Anthony Burgess’ translation of this famous French novel about a soldier who has low self esteem due to being born with a tremendously large nose, but makes up for it in other ways, is first class. Burgess has managed to create a text that is full of lyrical beauty and witticisms that compel the audience to keep watching the action unfold. Saying that however it was also this same lyrical text that brings the show its biggest handicap and that is its length at just shy of 3.5 hours this is a theatrical epic that will make sure you stretch long and hard before you attempt to leave the theatre, I am sure that a few clever cuts could mean the narrative stayed in good form and shape and that a trim 40 minutes could be taken from the total running time.

Nunn’s first creative collaboration with Chichester see's himself throwing down the gauntlet by admitting he wanted a project to follow the current west end smash A Little Night Music and be given a project that would be both thrilling and challenging and staging this monstrous epic at CFT’s demanding thrust stage is no walk in the park.

Nunn’s direction is well thought out, with careful attention to even the smallest detail, there is so much going on at all times that it is near impossible to take it all in on one sitting, but one feels he may have overdone his staging by adding the 15 strong community element to the proceedings as at times the stage seemed a little cluttered and the noise generated from such a large ensemble on stage tended to drown out the dialogue especially during the opening few scenes.

Taking the mamouth task of bringing one of literatures biggest known characters to life on stage is Joseph Fiennes, who provides Cyrano with so much warmth and charisma that it looks and feels effortless. The verbal dexterity in which he delivers his speeches are a delight to watch and hear and really does give a theatrical masterclass to be reckoned with.

Scott Handy as Le Comte de Guiche gives a compelling and slightly creepy performance which at times made me shudder with vulgarity. Stephen Hagan as Baron Christian de Neuvillette also proves faultless in bringing the love lorn soldier to life and has a tremendous comic flair to match. Alice Eve’s Roxane brings a much needed feminine charm to this testosterone filled fable, and at times produces a performance that is mesmerising and at times truly heartbreaking.
But the real star of this production is the set designed by Robert Jones whose versatile set pieces move the narrative through several locations smoothly and pretty much unnoticeably, it is not everyday you leave a theatre being blown away by the set and aided by an atmospheric lighting design by Tim Mitchell this production is a visual smorgasboard that leaves you feeling delightfully full.
All in all apart from the length, this production is what theatre is all about! A great story beautifully told and thoroughly captivating from start to finish, but hurry there is only two weeks left to catch this production at the CFT...but one can only keep their fingers crossed that following suit of other productions from past years that this manages to find a limited season in the city.

Cyrano runs at Chichester until Sat 30th May
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