A Bristol Old Vic production
in association with the Hong Kong Arts Festival
Written by Peter Oswald
Based on Edmund Rostand’s writings of
Cyrano de Bergerac
Directed by Tom Morris
Bristol Old Vic
12th October - 16th November 2019
By reputation Cyrano de Bergerac is probably most widely known for swashbuckling adventures and a rather distinctive proboscis.
In the hands of actor Tristan Sturrock in the eponymous role, Cyrano is given so much more substance in that yes, his swordsmanship was a skill he could execute with almost disdainful panache. And yes, his pronounced olfactory organ did affect his relationships with the opposite sex but this Cyrano was a poet and philosopher. Although dramaturg Peter Oswald has of necessity been selective with elements of Rostand’s story, the life and times of Cyrano are carefully showcased in this Tom Morris,Ti Green production with the entire team of actors and creatives working to execute a shared vision.
Cyrano de Bergerac really existed. He was born in Paris in 1619 and died, aged 36, in 1655.
Told in flashback for the most part Cyrano spends much of the last years of his life telling his stories to a group of nuns and it is largely through their stories and reminiscences that Rostand is able to tell his story.
This production used the entire Old Vic stage with Ti Green’s inset pieces creating the wonderfully evocative settings brought to life by Richard Howells’ lighting design whether the peaceful apple orchard of the nuns or the far from peaceful siege of Arras with firepower reminiscent of the barricade scene in the stage version of Hugo’s Les Miserables.
The cast of seven, all seasoned Old Vic favourites, played all the parts with Guy Hughes as onstage Musical Director and other actors giving Adrian Sutton’s musical score full effect adding poignancy to the action with some impressive multi-skilling by others in the cast playing such diverse instruments as the violin, piccolo and even the bagpipes at the siege.
Well drilled and slickly moving the stage set pieces around, the cast were totally committed and contributed to the staging of this production. Gravelly voiced Felix Hayes played goodies and baddies with equal aplomb; Guy Hughes on keyboard and as a nun, and pastry chef showing his versatility; Giles King of Kneehigh fame, playing parts ranging from a nun to a ninny; Sara Powell’s Roxane being wooed by Patrycja Kujawska’s Christian de Neuvillette a pretty somewhat vacuous boy who is encouraged to charm Roxane by reciting Cyrano’s romantic poetry and philosophical utterings; and Milos Yerolemou as another nun, baker and poet.
The final scene is played with full poignancy between Roxane now a nun finally realising that it was Cyrano’s poetry she had fallen in love with as Tristan Sturrock’s superbly created and poised Cyrano dies in her ams in the orchard at too young an age from injuries received “from a piece of wood falling on his head”.
Despite an over-long first half, a Tom Morris production that dispelled a few misconceptions about Cyrano replacing them with a greater understanding of this poet, lover and philosopher, exhorting audiences “if you are in love, show it”.