Cyrano de Bergerac: duelling meets the gymnasium?

Scene from Cyrano, featuring gym equipment

Lorne Campbell’s decision to stage Cyrano de Bergerac in a gymnasium is very strange indeed. But in spite of this, it’s still a production worth seeing.

Right, here’s a fact I bet you don’t know. Anthony Burgess – yes, that’s the same Anthony Burgess of Clockwork Orange fame – was also a skilled literary translator, and amongst his translations is Edmond Rostand’s 19th century classic, Cyrano de Bergerac. Set in swashbuckling France at the height of the Three Musketeers era, Cyrano de Bergerac is an legendary duellist and respected commander of the French Army, let down only by his ugly long nose (and woe betide anyone unwise enough to poke fun at it too much). His less-known weakness, however, is his love for Roxanne, disguised so well even Roxanne believes him to be only a friend. But Roxanne loves handsome Christian, a new recruit to Cyrano’s company, and he agrees to act as a go-between. But Christian, shy and lost for words, relies on Cyrano to write his love letters for him. Wait a second, I think I’ve seen this story before. And from what I recall, it never ends well.

Northern Stage’s Cyrano de Bergerac is another co-production with Royal & Derngate after last year’s excellent Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. But whilst that play was very much a Royal & Derngate / James Dacre play, this time it’s Northern Stage firmly in the creative driving seat, with Northern Stage’s Lorne Campbell directing, and a fair number of Northern Stage veterans making the creative team. Also – and this was an excellent idea – Northern Stage’s NORTH (their annual training programme for new professional actors) provided the ensemble roles for the play. With Northern Stage’s good track record of producing classic plays, I had good expectations of this – which all got thrown into doubt as soon as the play began. Continue reading