Jamie Lloyd’s clever and minimalistic production feels even sharper than its previous run at the Playhouse Theatre.
I think it is sometimes really easy to forget the power that language has in both hurting and yet equally providing comfort – but Martin Crimp’s smart and witty verse adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s play is a powerful and even occasionally bittersweet reminder of this.
Having last seen it when it was at the Playhouse Theatre in 2019, Jamie Lloyd’s production seems to have got sharper and even funnier than it was previously making it a delight to watch as the relationships between the characters develop. At the centre of the story, you have Cyrano who is passionate about language and poetry as well as an expert duelist who is in love with Roxanne, who is in turn in love with Christian (but definitely more for his looks than his use of language to woo her – as seen in one particularly hilarious scene). To complicate things further, Roxane is being pursued by the sleazy Count de Guiche who will do what it takes to make Roxanne marry Valvert for his own reasons. As well as being about the power of language, it is also about the complexities of human relationships and this makes it fascinating to watch.
With Soutra Gilmour’s set being minimalistic and lacking in colour, the production allows to focus on the characters and the way in which rhyme is used as well as the dynamic performances that are required to ensure that the pace and rhythm is kept to a high standard throughout. This is particularly highlighted in the scene in which Cyrano fights the Viscount Valvert – in which the fierceness of the poetry being spoken by Cyrano is perfectly matched with the fight movement choreographed by Kate Waters.
Meanwhile, the inclusion of of beat boxing into the production is a really smart move – enhancing tension into scenes to keep the audience gripped, whilst ensuring the pace of the production is maintained and it is to Vaneeka Dadhri’s credit that she does this flawlessly. While it is a long play, the smoothness and engaging nature of Jamie Lloyd’s production means it never feels as though it outstays its welcome.
Performance wise, there is plenty to be enjoyed. Reprising his role as Cyrano, James McAvoy gives a wonderfully detailed performance – highlighting the character’s passion and impulsive nature but at the same time captures the sense of insecurity he feels because of a certain aspect of his face. The captivating way in which he confesses his feelings for Roxanne while unintentionally pretending to be Christian is one of the finest moments in the production – the stillness that comes across the audience at this point is magical.
But he is surrounded by equally talented performances from Tom Edden as the chilling and calculating De Guiche and Eben Figueiedo as the charming if slightly lacking in intelligence on how to woo Roxanne Christian. Equally as impressive is Evelyn Miller as Roxane, who captures the character’s passion for language and desire to be respected for her intellectual abilities with utter conviction, while Michele Austin as Leila gives a warm and assured performance.
As a whole, this production of Cyrano de Bergerac is certainly to be recommended. It is bold, sharp and engaging from start to finish – while at the same time leaving you wanting more.
By Emma Clarendon
Cyrano De Bergerac will play at the Harold Pinter Theatre until the 12th March before heading to the Theatre Royal Glasgow from the 18th to the 26th March. To book your tickets click here or visit: Love Theatre.com, London Theatre Direct, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Last Minute.com, See Tickets or From the Box Office.