Writer: Edmund Rostand
Adaptor: Anthony Burgess
Additional Poetry: Twm Morys
Director: Phillip Breen
Reviewer: Mel Duncan
It would be impossible to attempt to stage Cyrano De Bergerac without a degree of panache – in fact the play is responsible for the introduction of the word into the English language.
Cyrano (Steffan Rhodri), a larger than life character with a penchant for duelling and witty banter, was in fact a real-life person. Rostand’s much loved depiction sees our hero downgraded to sidekick, as he assists Christian de Neuvillette (Marc Rhys) woo the love of his (and Cyrano’s) life, the beautiful and intelligent Roxane (Sara Lloyd-Gregory).
The flaw in Cyrano’s character – his self-doubt due to an oversized nose, renders him unable to profess his own love. The beautifully crafted words he has composed in her honour remain unsaid, unwritten until, at her request, he embarks his quest to protect and assist Christian as he woos Roxane, and makes his mark as the newest member of the Gascony Cadets.
Ironically Roxane looks beyond Christian’s undeniable beauty, falling in love with the wordsmith. It is his soul she pines for as the Gascony cadets head off to war. Despite Christian’s departure from this world on the battlefield, Cyrano still fails to speak truth to Roxanne, until his death, as the lengthy story draws to its conclusion in the convent of Mother Marguérite de Jésus (Victoria John).
The lively opening to this piece heralds the potential for a stunning experience. Vibrant characters, fast paced action and jovial interplay set the bar for three hours of immersion into the world of Cyrano. Interestingly, the decision to remain in Paris for the tale, despite the Welsh/English bilingualism introduced with Twm Morys’ additional poetry works. Some phrases are immediately translated, though not always – this tactic adds a wonderful opportunity for the actors to make full use of the wave of emotive language this play is awash with. Once is simply not enough for some of these lines, and Morys writes in a style sympathetic and every bit as enchanting as Rostand.
Rhodri brings life and true panache to Cyrano, he is the very man one pictures when reading the play. Brash, aggressive, and yet still utterly engaging. The pace of Rhodri’s utterances is full of momentum, yet not a word is lost – truly commendable is such a voraciously wordy piece. He embraces the additional lines, and enfolds them into the original text in a way that can only be described as delicious.
Likewise, John, as Roxane’s Duenna and Rhys Parry Jones as Ragueneau bring out the luminescence and brilliance radiating from this stunning text. Their simplicity of performance, and excellent comic timing show true mastery and understanding of their roles, and help to move the action along.
The highlight has to be the moments where Dyfan Jones has the company break into multi part harmony, accapella. A rich, full bodied sound was stirring to hear, and the company members introducing the song for their fellow performers never faltered – no mean feat.
The community actors work effortlessly throughout the show to add colour and vibrancy – it is wonderful to see this blending of community and professional actor in a performance of the nature.
At times, sadly, momentum is slow, and technical operations are clunky – the ascent to Roxane’s balcony being a prime example of this, costume fumbles being another. It feels as though more time to rehearse and finesse would be beneficial.
This production still has more to give – there is a sense that the dips in momentum will soon disappear, the movement of large items of set will become more steady, and the piece will ascend to the bar set in its opening scene. When they do, this will be a piece of theatre full of panache.
Runs until May 7 2016 | Image:Pete Le May