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  • Colin Fraser


FOUR AND A HALF STARS A nobleman, a soldier, a respected poet. Cyrano could have it all if not for his very large nose.

James McAvoy, Anita-Joy Uwajeh


Rostand’s turn-of-the-century play about doomed lovers is brought up-to-the-moment in this highly energised production from the National Theatre. Yet in many ways CYRANO DE BERGERAC returns to its roots by maintaining the original rhythm of rhyming couplets. Here it’s given the framework of spoken verse, sometimes breaking into rap that also roots it in the now. Quite an achievement.

Despite his obnoxiously large nose, Cyrano (X_MEN’s James McAvoy) is a man of note in Paris’ cultural quarter. He’s a nobleman, a soldier and a gifted poet who - well respected - could have it all if not for the crippling self-doubt that plagues him in matters of the heart. Paralysed by a fear of rejection, he’s unable to tell his cousin Roxette about his true feelings; instead Cyrano helps her new beau, a fellow solider, to compose love-letters on the man’s behalf. It’s the only way Cyrano can voice his own turbulent feelings and endear Roxette to him.

His plan fails of course, but it’s the only thing that does in this startling production directed by Jamie Lloyd. He dumps grand settings in favour of a small, stark set to emphasise Cyrano’s emotional claustrophobia. He eschews the classic nose to focus our attention on what is said, rather than what is happening (though in truth the absurdly handsome face of McAvoy lamenting its ugliness, sans nose, is hard to take seriously). The result is the unadorned presentation of playwright Martin Crimp’s scintillating adaptation, a linguistic powerhouse of passion and rhyme.

Sure to please fans of inventive theatre, CYRANO DE BERGERAC should also appeal to fans of spoken verse and rap alike. Not what you might expect from a 19th century play, but it’s the unexpected that makes this so raw, so intense and so utterly compelling.


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