Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

Cyrano De Bergerac @ Playhouse Theatre (Play Review) Cyrano De Bergerac @ Playhouse Theatre (Play Review)
Cyrano De Bergerac @ Playhouse Theatre (Play Review)

Written by Edmond Rostand in 1897, the highly popular Cyrano de Bergerac is based on a historical figure that lived from the mid to late 1690s. The most famous versions being Gerard Depardieu 1990 Oscar nominated version and the Hollywood spinoff ‘Roxanne’ starring Steve Martin in the title role.


Translated-Adapted by Martin Crump, Cyrano It is a tale of love, the power of words and its effect on the imagination. Master swordsman, soldier and poet Cyrano de Bergerac (James McAvoy) has fallen in love with the beautiful Roxane (Anita-Joy Uwajeh), but he’s too ashamed to pursue her because of his ugly features. His friend and fellow soldier, Christian also falls for Roxane but doesn’t have the words to express his feelings.


He elicits the help of Cyrano to write a series of increasingly romantic love letters on his behalf. Roxane is swept off her feet by these amorous notes and not before long turns her love into marriage. A devastated Cyrano keeps his friend’s secret even after his death in battle.


Many years later he seeks out Roxane and asks if he could read his friend’s last letter to her. As he continues in the dark, Roxane realises that Cyrano is the author of the letters and the true soul mate she’d been searching for. A short fight ensues and the play ends with Roxane kissing the smiling face of a dying Cyrano.


Jamie Lloyd’s stripped back version features not only a multicultural cast but touches of hip hop street smart, interspersed with slices of beat boxing from the formidable skills of Vaneeka Dadhria.


Designer Soutra Gilmore, sparse airy staging with a few benches scattered around helped further to focus the audience attention on the words rather than the scenery.


Dressed in a dark leather jacket McAvoy is exceptional as the moody and muscular Cyrano. Exuding both toughness and tenderness with consummate ease. A man pent up with repressed emotions, tortured by his self-imposed silence.


Asked why this version lacked the prosthetic nose of previous versions McAvoy commented “ we wanted to test how powerful his [Rostand] words and imagination are and see if they can truly engage the audience. If we were disciplined and focused enough the audience would see a nose.”


Anita-Joy despite dressed like a tomboy in blue dungarees manages to gives a powerful performance as the love struck Roxane, being able to exude immense femininity and a steely single mindedness in equal measures.


An accomplished performance by Eben Figueirdo as Christian and strong support from the rest of the cast helped to give this version a fresh, stylish, contemporary feel without sacrificing the essence of this complex and much loved story about the power of the imagination.


Overall this version, sticks closely to the original but by ingeniously infusing it with hip hop verse, modern garb and a diverse casting, Jamie Lloyd has created an inventive piece of modern theatre that is humorous, poetic, invigorating but above all challenging.


Cyrano De Bergerac, Till 29 Feb 2020, www.theplayhousetheatre.co.uk

Pic credit: Marc Brenner

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