Adaptation: Edwin Morgan from the book by Edmund Rostand
Director: Dominic Hill
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Loosely (rather loosely at that) based upon Edmund Rostand’s 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac has previously been translated into Scots by Edwin Morgan. Returning to bring some panache into the Lyceum, delivering the concocted mythos and life of a man who embodied the true sense of romance.
A herald of poetry, vim and vigour, Cyrano De Bergerac is a serving nobleman. An exceptional man of letters and duelling, he is however, forever cursed with a rather large honker. A nose which earns ridicule, but not without vicious rebuttal – we quickly realise that nothing is sharper than Cyrano’s blade other than his tongue. Desperately in love with his cousin Roxane, unable to overcome his self-consciousness, Cyrano is forced to convey his adoration through ghost writing for Cadet Christian.
Words, fascinating how the arrangement of sounds and letters can conjure such reverence. With the right tone or direction, they have the ability to conjure love, provoke war or scar with envy. Apart from the performers, it is Edwin Morgan’s Scots translation which truly captures the core of Rostand’s original play. The Scots translation lends itself strikingly to the text, accentuating it to innovative heights – though arguably at the cost of some pathos. Certain word choices lead to an enriched humour, if they do lose a touch of the dramatic for the audience.
What use are words without their bard to recite them? Brian Ferguson channels the swashbuckler, the broad Caledonian heart of Morgan’s translation, a key part of his character. Balancing the sorrow of his desires whilst delivering a performance which fills the theatre with laughter. Every utterance is delivered with passion, by someone who isn’t recycling but reciting each verse as if it were anew. Jessica Hardwick’s Roxane at first seems deceitfully simplistic, her role almost archaic. It is not until the infamous balcony scene in which we see the two provide the sought after drama we all cry out for.
Be wary though, for this is a bum-number, clocking in at just over three hours long. Cyrano De Bergerac devotes time for the cast to develop their character. Time to be properly introduced, grow and garner emotion from the audience. The lack of a caesura means we transition from verse to verse, across character. Even the most talented of linguists will throw their hands up, literally lost in translation.
Tom Piper’s set design is spectacular. Breaking open the stage to flow into the audience, the wings and aisles utilised for the casts entrances. We are the production. We are involved, not simply through participation but in as an invitation to the goings on around us. Stripped to its essential form, there is a raw grandeur. Performer’s warm-up, framed around a translucent curtain, a set of stage steps wheeled across to convey the balcony.
It is highly advised that, as difficult as it may be, to remove your gaze from Cyrano’s infamous nose. Instead, allow your eyes to absorb the continued marvels of Pam Hogg’s costume design. Jessica Hardwick’s Roxane is the real victor here, Hardwick’s gowns are exquisite.
Cyrano De Bergerac has put Scots on display, the Teacakes and Irn Bru – the ambrosia of a nation. Not entirely accessible though, largely in part to word choices, there is an effort to be made by the audience at first. Fear not though, have a drink or two and surrender yourself to the barrage of words, lock rapiers with Cyrano and embrace the artistry surrounding you.
Runs until 3 November 2018 | Image: Mihaela Bodlovic