Photo credit David James McCarthy
What does a 19th century French play have to do with modern day Australia? At first glance, the 1897 play featuring a man with an obsurdly large nose, in love with the most beautiful girl in France, and heading a garrison in the Franco-Spanish 30-Years-War, doesn’t seem all that relatable. However, the latest adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac is at the Canberra Theatre Centre with the Sport for Jove Theatre Company and its reputation proceeds it, with the Sydney Morning Herald claiming it is, “little short of magnificient. Highly recommended”. Its reimagining as a WWI-WWII drama, with a large dash of comedy to counterbalance the darker themes, has worked wonders and filled sold-out theatres across Australia, including on opening night in Canberra.
I have been raving about this performance since I saw it two days ago, to the point where I actually bought some of the final tickets available for the final show on Saturday evening for my parents, with the promise, “You’ll absolutely love it”. I couldn’t find fault with it – the acting, especially by director and lead Damien Dryan (Cyrano), was energetic and flawless, even towards the end of the exhausting 3 hours of stage time. The consensus from all my neighbours in the audience was that the staging was a particularly favourite aspect, taking us from a Parisian stage, to Ragueneau’s patisserie, to the frontier of the first World War, to an autumnal convent. The key to its success (in my opinion), however was the translation, adaption and directing to make a century-old piece into something very modern and witty. Some of Cyrano’s precisely-delivered lines, and the dumb wit of Christian, Cyrano’s rival in the love for the beautiful Roxanne, had the audience in laughter to the point of tears.
That being said, Sport for Jove’s Cyrano de Bergerac doesn’t shy away from the darker side of drama. Cyrano’s unrequited, star-crossed love for Roxanne leads him to sacrifice his own happiness for bringing Roxanne and Christian together, comfort Roxanne through her mourning of the fallen Christian after the battle at the frontier, and an eventual lonely death at the hands of the many enemies his smart mouth has made him, only at the point of which he confesses his true feelings for her. The core of the story is the vulnerable self-esteem of a man who believes his appearance can never be lovable. Those aren’t tears in my eyes, I think it’s a piece of dust.
If, by any luck, there are still tickets available for the short run of Cyrano de Bergerac at the Canberra Theatre Centre, I would highly recommend purchasing. This is one play that I can promise you won’t regret seeing.
Cyrano de Bergerac is at the Canberra Theatre Centre for two more performances at 2:00pm and 8:00pm on Saturday 1st July.
Tickets can be purchased at the Canberra Theatre Centre website HERE.
*I attended Cyrano de Bergerac as a guest of the Canberra Theatre Centre. I am deeply grateful to the Theatre for the opportunity.