Cyrano de Bergerac

Wed 27th – Sat 30th November 2013

reviews

Lucy Rayfield

at 09:20 on 28th Nov 2013

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‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ tells the story of a French Renaissance playwright, famous for his startling ripostes and large nose. Although such a dramatist did exist, this 1897 play written about his life is entirely fictional. It focuses on Cyrano’s use of poetic wit to seduce his beloved Roxane, despite her love for Christian, a good-looking though simple soldier. Christian worries that he is too dull to interest Roxane for any length of time- and so Cyrano agrees to write letters to her, as a way to both help Christian and speak to Roxane’s heart himself. As a fan of Renaissance theatre, I was interested to see how St Hilda’s College Drama Society would portray such a well-known tale and legendary figure.

At first glance around the auditorium, I was rather worried. Over half the seats were empty, and on opening night too- not a good sign. It is true that the play got off to a slow start. The actors were slightly wooden and had the tendency to speak too quietly. Lines also seemed somewhat over-rehearsed, as I had the impression that several actors were parroting their lines without really thinking about what they were saying. All of these things, however, can be put down to nerves; indeed, with the arrival of Cyrano (played by Douglas Taylor), the cast instantly relaxed and the drama began to improve.

It is clear that the director (Callyane Desroches) had taken pains to do justice to the interesting plot, and followed it closely. Although the scenery was quite plain, it was complemented by skilful lighting and good use of stage space by the actors. The pianist who opened the play created a striking effect, as did several bursts of high action, such as the sword fighting in Act I. The costumes, provided by the Oxfordshire Drama Wardrobe Collection, were very well-selected; the make-up too was impressive (from the third row back, Cyrano’s false nose was disconcertingly realistic). Overall, the play was visually quite fascinating.

The cast also contains some accomplished actors. Douglas Taylor, who plays the eponymous hero, is a powerful speaker and delivered some impressive monologues. Stephen Navin (who plays Ragueneau) was also a personal favourite- he had a great voice and a knack for making the audience laugh: “Take this! Take this! It once belonged to a swan!” Charlie MacVicar (who plays Christian) was also hilarious, as were the Gascony cadets. Ann-Marie Cross (who plays Roxane)- despite sometimes speaking rather quickly- is frankly a natural on stage.

Although this play is admittedly rather long (taking just under three hours), there were many laugh-out-loud moments and the action was fast-paced and interesting. The actors clearly have a good relationship with each other, which contributed to their ease on stage. Overall, despite getting off to a bumpy start, this play is funny, well-executed and full of talent- definitely worth a watch.

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