Book Festival event: Sunday 16 August 2015
Edwin Morgan’s celebrated Scottish translation of Cyrano de Bergerac was given a one-off revival at the Book Festival on Sunday 16.
Morgan’s version of Edmond Rostand’s play about the huge-hootered poet and swordsman was a massive hit in 1992 for Communicado, who originally commissioned the translation, but it seems to have dropped out of sight since.
Poster for Communicado’s 1992 tour
Book Festival director Nick Barley explained that the fifth anniversary of Morgan’s death provided the ideal opportunity for Communicado’s Gerry Mulgrew to bring back his celebrated production in the form of a rehearsed reading.
Even with a smaller cast – eight as opposed to twelve in the original, who still had to do great amounts of doubling – there was an energy, clarity and focus to the performance. It would be unfair to subject such a reading to a formal review, especially as only a series of extracts were performed, but there was enough there to show what a rare treat a full-scale revival would be. The rambunctious humour of Morgan’s Glaswegian translation was a joy.
Simon Donaldson’s Cyrano, even with a normal-sized nose, dealt very well with both the braggadocio of the role and its closing heartbreak. The scenes combining him with Isobel McArthur as his unrequited love Roxanne and Christian (Ewan Donald) the handsome, shallow rival for her love, worked particularly well.an emerging classic
The rest of the cast – Communicado co-founder Alison Peebles, Karen Dunbar, Paul Brotherston, Benny Young and Mulgrew himself – all contributed greatly to a successful evening.
Barley gave credit to Robyn Marsack from the Scottish Poetry Library and Morgan’s friend the poet David Kinloch for their part in bringing back what he described as ‘an emerging classic of Scottish literature.’
Even if this proves nothing but a one-off, the least that can be said is that the script is available from Carcanet again and can be purchased from the Festival bookshop.
Such a performance as this is a perfect fit for the Book Festival and certainly any regular theatregoer could soon come up with several Scottish plays, well received at the time, that seem to have fallen off the radar and are ripe for rediscovery.
More of the same please – and a full-scale production of Cyrano as soon as possible.
Edwin Morgan’s script of Cyrano de Bergarac is also available from the Carcanet website: