Let me take you back to the time of Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu, and Cyrano Savinien Hercule De Bergerac. Well, the first two at least were real, and the latter of course the famous fabled Cyrano - an army cadet, a poet, actor and would-be lover.
There is something new and fresh about this lovely adaptation by Deborah McAndrew. First of all it is clever, and second it is funny. It has just the right balance between excitement, adventure and bonhomie. Yet, I still couldn't help feeling a tad disappointed by the presentation.
Northern Broadsides, a company which has continually striven to challenge by presenting classical works in an unashamedly brash way with unapologetic northern English brogue, seem now to have settled for the middle-ground and are staying there. Directed safely and predictably by Conrad Nelson, the whole show never really challenged or excited, but simply bopped along quite happily to its inevitable roar of applause at the end.
The set and costumes were very good (Lis Evans), and the acting, in the main, was indeed first class, so why did it leave me feeling somewhat flat? Could it be perhaps that the actors were simply going through the motions, or was there something more fundamental nagging at me? I think the latter. The whole production was too 'neat'. One could wrap the whole thing up in a pretty pink ribbon and present it as a birthday present! This might work for some plays, but when given the genius of McAndrew's wit, and the notorious storyline it follows, it was a very pedestrian show.
All the cast were actor / musicians, and all played various instruments throughout, as Cyrano's story was told through a combination of prose, poetry, music and song, but I couldn't help thinking that when such care and attention to detail had gone in to making everything else belong to the early / middle 17th century, majority of the instruments played (not all I hasten to add!) were distinctly modern.
Cyrano (Christian Edwards) was played with arrogance and suavity in equal measure, and became all the more real and believable because of it; and although one really ought to dislike him for his precociousness, one couldn't help rooting for him, despite his enormous conk! (Whatever you do, don't mention the nose!). Christian, the out-of-town new recruit and sudden love-rival of Cyrano (Adam Barlow) was rather quiet in comparison with the rest of the cast, and at times seemed bored and ./ or slightly distracted this evening most unfortunately. The object of both their affections, the beauteous Roxane was played ably by Sharon Singh, although her rather harsh and commanding voice was somehow at odds with her delicate beauty.
The ensemble worked extremely hard to be all the multifarious characters that enter the narrative whilst making the stage look full, singing and playing instruments at the same time. They deserve full credit of course. The two who shone brightest for me though were Andrew Whitehead's Le Bret and Paul Barnhill's poetry-loving Ragueneau.
It is the 25th anniversary of Barrie Rutter's 'child', Northern Broadsides, and I have had the privilege and pleasure of seeing many of their excellent productions throughout this time. I was rather hoping therefore for something rather special with Cyrano, but it one of those productions that will stay with me for as long as I have nothing else to distract me. It was good while it lasted.
Reviewer: Mark Dee
Reviewed: 18th April 2017
North West End Rating: ★★★