Written one hundred and twenty years ago, this French play, written in rhyming verse by Edmond Rostand, has endured for a very good reason.
Everyone enjoys a joke about a big nose, and in Cyrano de Bergerac, there are lots of them (jokes not big noses).
The plot is simple enough, Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, is a cadet in the French Army. He is brash, roguish and talented, as well as being a swordsman of some repute, he is also a poet and musician.
Enough to engage any woman you might think? Wrong. He has an extremely large nose, which “gets in the way” of his pursuit of the beautiful Roxanne played by the comely Sharon Singh. Will true love win the day? Or is beauty skin deep?
This adaptation is by Deborah McAndrew whom I remember fondly as an actress in Coronation Street in the 1990s, playing Angie Freeman opposite Curly Watts. She has been with Northern Broadsides company since 1995 and is married to their Musical Director Conrad Nelson who also directs this show.
Unsurprisingly, there is quite a lot of music in this production, which works well and entertains, breaking up what is quite a lengthy production. When you are involved in the tedious siege of Arras, what is there to do other than sing some songs?
Although set in the Thirty Years War in 1640 Paris, the dialogue is frequently contemporary, making it accessible and easier for comedy. There are not many laughs in 19th century French for a 21st Century Derbyshire audience.
A youthful earthy provincial Christian Edwards delights as the eponymous poetic hero, Adam Barlow is the perfect, superficial, shallow foil as his love rival, Christian de Neuvilette, who appropriates Cyrano’s poetry to woo Roxanne.
The costumes are lavish, the instrumentation and baroque songs easy on the ear, and tragic-comedy soft, poignant, and at times raucous (the nose jokes). Paul Barnhill, as master baker, and less than master poet, Ragueneau, has a fine time as he seizes his moment of glory by smuggling cakes on to the battlefield for his hungry countrymen.
This is a bold production from a provincial company determined to give the production a provincial feel. Celebrating the outsider, it works. The closing drama is a well -executed finale, raising the tempo for a two-and-a-half-hour long production which runs till the end of the week, then closes at the Oxford Playhouse from May 23-27. Fun, imaginative and with plenty of live music, this affecting and quirky revival is a hoot (er).