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NUMEROUS versions of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play about the hot-blooded 17th-century swordsman, poet and philosopher, cursed with a nose of excessive proportions, have filled hours of stage and film time.
This latest version by Bristol Old Vic is a fun-filled, triumphant addition.
With a nod to commedia dell’arte, Peter Oswald’s translation and Tom Morris’s direction inject a lightness of touch, while contemporary references shift the production away from any specific time period.
Ti Green’s design highlights the theatricality of the show, framing the action with contrasting proscenium arches and insubstantial framework structures and even creating a mock-up a Les Miserables-style barricade for the battle scenes.
There’s an outstanding cast, from Miltos Yerolemou’s comically archetypical French baker, revelling in a dance version of his recipe for almond tarts, to Guy Hughes’s sonorous and imperious baron, pompously flaunting his rank.
At the heart of the show is a memorable performance from Tristan Sturrock as Cyrano, besotted with his cousin Roxane yet unable to openly profess his love, whose physicality and energy create the brazen audacity and showmanship of this iconic character in a performance melding bravura moments of wit and playfulness with poignant elements of poetic candour.
Sara Powell’s Roxane, casually indifferent to her cousin’s physical escapades, contemptuous of her suitor’s inarticulate professions of love and determined to achieve her heart’s desire, has the independence and spirit of a contemporary heroine.
A chorus of bearded nuns angelically hover around the action and transform the stage, while the live music, underscoring the more emotional scenes and injecting of humour, lifts the energy level still higher.
Unhindered by any overarching style or approach, this is a celebration of theatrical creativity which makes for a hugely enjoyable production.
Rostand’s original lines sit comfortably alongside modern interjections such as: “I need some motherfucking eloquence,” while moments of Pythonesque absurdity blend harmoniously with episodes of poetic, emotional sincerity.
Another version of Cyrano is soon to open at London’s Playhouse Theatre but Bristol has set a very high bar for any future reworkings of this much-loved tale.
Runs until November 16, box-office: bristololdvic.org.uk.
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