Cyrano de Bergerac – Hill Street Theatre, Edinburgh

Reviewer: Adrian Ross

Writer: Edmond Rostand

Adaptation: Glyn Maxwell

Director: Phil Barnes

This latest offering from Arkle Theatre Company follows their excellent production last year of the David Haig play Pressure, about the vital role of a Scottish meteorologist in delaying D-day in 1944, thereby preventing disaster.

That show achieved, and this one lacks, a consistent atmosphere. We identified with that production’s well-drawn characters; a certain level of realism was maintained as the tension rose. By comparison, this production is a bit of a mish-mash.

It seems to be reaching for a tragi-comic tone, but instead veers between farce and schmaltz, concluding with unearned sentimentality. The range of realism portrayed here is just too wide to be believable, so the audience can’t engage with it wholeheartedly.

If the individual scenes don’t quite hang together, they’re all watchable and performed with gusto. There’s plenty of enjoyable schtick, as army captain Cyrano (John Lally) disrupts a theatre performance and his nemesis De Guiche (Gregor McElvogue) elaborates his various schemes. In a clever piece of staging, a shop door that’s only suggested by mime actually rings a bell.

The play’s language toggles between flowery seventeenth century lines and much plainer, more contemporary sounding dialogue, which renders love interest Roxane (Hannah Bradley Croall) a curious historical hybrid.

Some of the story’s transitions are rather glossed over, so it’s slightly jarring when Cyrano puts himself out to help his rival for Roxane’s love, Christian (Steven Bradley Croall). Despite being insulted by the younger man, a cadet in his charge, Cyrano takes him aside for pep talks, as a first team coach might try to boost the self-esteem of a wayward centre-back. He also writes eloquent love letters on his behalf, as Christian struggles to express himself to Roxane.

The balcony scene, the set piece of the story, offers a three-way conversation between Roxane and her beloved Christian, with Cyrano secretly supplying him with suitably amorous words. In this production, it’s rather loud and played for laughs, so lacks the charm and tenderness that might have drawn us in a bit more.

The supporting cast is disciplined and well-drilled, providing a vibrant social context for the main action.

Runs Until 27 April 2024 | Image: Rob Shields

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Fun in parts

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