Playhouse Theatre, London – until 29 February 2020
Jamie Lloyd’s stripped back but immensely enjoyable production highlights the power of language thanks to Martin Crimp’s engaging adaptation.
For this contemporary and lively version of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, Jamie Lloyd and Martin Crimp capture just how this story is still relevant for audiences today in an imaginative way that is still emotionally engaging.
Cyrano de Bergerac is a poet and soldier who is desperately in love with his cousin Roxane but feels unable to tell her due to the size of his nose. However, things are further complicated when Roxane falls in love with Christian a fellow soldier and asks Cyrano to look out for him and protect him.
Thanks to Crimp’s sharp and edgy adaptation that fully embraces the poetic nature of Bergerac’s personality, the language takes centre stage offering great rhythm throughout that keeps the show pacy and energetic throughout. This is particularly seen during the first act in which Cyrano engages with a dual of words that is brilliantly staged or when Christian throws numerous nose insults at Cyrano to try and bait him – highlighting just how powerful the use of language can be.
But there are plenty of moments of humour to be found in this adaptation that are really delightful to watch unfold. The scene in which Roxane demands an awkward Christian to be more spontaneous, with Cyrano ending up making a romantic speech for him is a real highlight. The sharp comic timing from all of the cast reveals just how much attention has been paid to the language and the way it is presented.
Through this stripped back staging, director Jamie Lloyd manages to capture themes of body image, love and language in such a unique way that captures the audience’s imagination vividly – particularly through the use of microphones that enhances the power of what is being said.
Some might find the starkness of Soutra Gilmour’s set design (literally like a blank canvas with a few microphones) a bit difficult to get on board with, but is actually extremely effective in helping to ensure that that audience’s attention is on what is being said. Meanwhile, the use of beat boxing (brilliantly performed by Vaneeka Dadhria) wonderfully keeps the rhythm of the play going.
The cast themselves really give their all to the production. James McAvoy offers a delightfully charismatic and endearing performance as Cyrano, getting the balance between the character’s natural swagger of self-confidence in his writing but lack of it when it comes to his romantic dreams. His reactions are always on point – particularly during his moments with Roxane that are heartwarming as they are heartbreaking.
Meanwhile, Anita-Joy Uwajeh is immensely enjoyable as the passionate Roxane, delivering a character who won’t be told what to do. The rawness of her performance as she discovers she has been lied to is mesmerising and heartbreaking to watch. Tom Edden as De Guiche is brilliantly creepy, Michele Austin as Leila offers a grounded and warm performance and Eben Figueiredo as the tongue tied but well-meaning Christian is a great match for McAvoy’s Cyrano.
Bold, lively and razor sharp from start to finish, Jamie Lloyd’s production of Cyrano de Bergerac is a delight to watch.
By Emma Clarendon
Cyrano de Bergerac will play at the Playhouse Theatre until the 29th February 2020. Tickets are available to buy through ATG Tickets. You can also book through Love London Love Culture, Love Theatre.com, Encore Tickets, See Tickets, From the Box Office, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk or Last Minute.com.