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Theatre Review: Cyrano De Bergerac ***

Michael Cox reviews a production that looks brilliant but is let down by one crucial aspect.

Cyrano de Bergerac is a brilliant celebration of the power of words. Edmond Rostand’s hero, marked by an oversized nose, is as deadly with the rapier as he is with his wit. He is a compelling character whose unrequited love for Roxanne has enchanted and thrilled audiences for generations—and has challenged many of the finest actors.

Dominic Hill has launched the Citizens’ temporary move into the Tramway with his take on the classic. Using a translation by Edwin Morgan, Hill’s production is a commendable mix of epic splendour and tender intimate moments.

And there is much to admire. Hill’s production team have created a great looking performance with extravagant design and sprawling staging that allows the action to have a cinematic grandness. The company is made up of terrific actors, including Brian Ferguson as an energetic and passionate Cyrano, Jessica Hardwick as a feisty Roxanne and Keith Fleming as the despicable De Guiche. Each actor within the company has at least one moment to shine, presenting a collection of interesting characters that are fun to spend time with.

And yet, there is one significant flaw in the production that nearly renders the majority of the hard work into uselessness: the sound of the actors’ voices. There are moments where every word is heard—these tend to be the smaller scenes with two or three individuals. These moments come across as a relief, for the majority of the play is large and loud—and practically incomprehensible. It would be easy to blame the Tramway space and say it was a matter of acoustics were it not for one actor—Hardwick—who is not only pitch perfect in her line delivery but also makes every syllable clearly audible.

When watching this production, one has to wonder why this is the case. Why is such a talented group of actors nearly unintelligible in their delivery? It is not for want of talent. Perhaps this would be a bit more forgivable with Hill’s visual flare to carry the weight, but as this is a play about the power of words, it is ridiculously unfortunate that the one thing lacking is vocal clarity. Those moments where Rostand’s play is heard through Morgan’s words are electric, but they are few and far between.

In the end, this Cyrano is a conundrum—a brilliant looking production populated by terrific performances that’s nearly incomprehensible in its star attraction: the words. It’s an absolute shame the poetry seems to have been thrown away in favour of style.

Cyrano de Bergerac’s run at the Tramway has ended. It’s at the Royal Lyceum from October 12th to November 3rd and Eden Court from November 7th-12th.

Tags: theatre

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