Bristol Old Vic
What's not to love...
I’m in two, or three minds about Cyrano, a 19th century play at Bristol Old Vic, on until Saturday, November 16, and said to be as captivating as Hamlet and romantic as Brief Encounter.
The hero, Cyrano has a whopping nose that puts his whole being out of joint in a story made famous onscreen by Gerard Depardieu as the big-nosed, swashbuckling, poet- soldier.
Bristol playwright and poet Peter Oswald has translated the original French text for director Tom Morris for this verse adaptation.
While pitch-perfect for poetry and performance, it leaves me tussling with a play that is neither high romance, tragedy, comedy or farce but a mixture that jars.
It is back to Edmond de Rostand's 1897 Cyrano de Bergerac that this tale of doomed love springs and the eternal fight between how we look and what we feel.
The seeming superficiality of romantic love - Cyrano is a gentler, more believable Beauty and the Beast.
Tom Morris bookends the play with a scene in a nunnery, gorgeous heavily-laden apple tree and gentle singing as old Cyrano hobbles on to chat to his beloved cousin Roxane, who is now a grieving Sister, glad of his visits and gossip.
Tristan Sturrock ably takes on the role of Cyrano – who was a real-life, hard-drinking, fencing, brawling, soldier, poet and impecunious 17th century aristocrat.
His nose is a whopper but the Elephant Man he isn’t, Cyrano’s self-consciousness is his downfall.
Roxane (played robustly by Sara Powell), falls for another soldier, Christian (Patrycja Kujawska) who is handsome but can’t string a romantic sentence together.
There is another suitor hard on Roxane’s delicate heels, De Guiche (Felix Hayes) whose wonderful voice sounds like it’s come from middle earth. With his wealth and slithering charm, Roxane has to handle him with care as she steers towards the man she wants.
In a baker’s shop run by the brilliant Raguneau (Miltos Yerolemou) Roxane reveals her admiration for Christian to Cyrano.
All he can do is blink back tears among the cakes.
By twists of fate, Cyrano woos Roxane with love letters written on behalf of Christian and there’s a farcical Romeo and Juliet-type balcony scene (I thought Roxane’s romantic standards were sky-high frankly).
Poor Cyrano writes as a poet but resembles Shrek, while Christian has the profile of a film star and brain of an ass.
This male-match made in heaven is what Roxane falls for.
There is a brilliant battle scene and all praise must go to set and costume designer, Ti Green, with flashes of World War 1.
Review by Melanie Greenwood
It’s here Roxane sneaks into the battlefield and swears to Christian that while it was his looks she fell for the letters have led her to love his soul.
Cue for a very tricky impasse which is ably handled and one of the best scenes in the play.
The story ends, like it begins, with Cyrano at the nunnery but finally revealing who he is.
Roxane looks torn between torment and fury as the scales fall off her eyes.
The cast are a tightly-knit group of able performers who switch roles, costumes and musical instruments with aplomb. It is a very busy stage at times that includes an audience singalong.
Dare I say it, Cyrano could be a musical in the making and then perhaps all those disparate threads of romance, tragedy, farce and humour would come seamlessly together?
For more information go to www.bristololdvic.org.uk or telephone the box office on 0117 987 7877 Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm.
Tickets: from £11.50
Running time: 2 hours 45 mins including interval
Cyrano runs until Saturday, November 16 at 7.30pm with matinees at 2.30pm and one performance on Tuesday, November 5 for parents/carers with babes in arms
PHOTOS: From top clockwise Patrycja Kujawska, Tristan Sturrock and Sara Powell in Cyrano; Tristan Sturrock and Miltos Yerolemou both images byt Geraint-Lewis; Felix Hayes, Giles King, Tristan Sturrock, Miltos Yerolemou and Patrycja Kujawska in rehearsals and Guy Hughes playing piano both images by Owain Astles