Two visits to this beauty of a show – and I’ll be back home in Manchester the week the production visits the Lowry, so I would imagine I will drop in on this again.
Clearly I enjoyed the show, to see it twice, so I won’t hold out for suspense here and I’ll be upfront about it – if this show is coming to a town near you, go and see it. For me, it is the best all-round I’ve seen in a long while. I’ve been fortunate to see plenty of very good shows but this one has a great combination of everything I love.
Set in the 1640s for the most part, the poetic verse gives a Shakespearean feel to a play which was written two and a half centuries later, the baroque-style musical interludes throughout keep pace and add to the atmosphere, the humour of the central character accounting for several laughs in his witty ripostes. Not to mention some swashbuckling swordfighting scenes and physical comedy sequences which have the audience captivated.
The role of Cyrano is portrayed exquisitely by Christian Edwards – no stranger to anyone who has read this blog over the past couple of years. I have enjoyed seeing him in a number of roles and he has never disappointed. This one, perhaps, has been his most profound performance. Cyrano Hercule Savinien de Bergerac as a character is the right combination of wit, humour and tragedy – and the play follows that lead superbly, with what is essentially a tragedy intertwined with a sweet romantic narrative and punctuated with genuinely uproariously funny moments.
My disclaimer at this point is to mention that romantic storylines usually bore me to tears – but consider this production a rom-com (of sorts) where the com actually features!
Edwards is ably supported by an incredibly versatile and talented cast, with many of the group playing instruments at various points. More a play with music, rather than musical theatre, the songs are used sparingly but to great effect in showcasing the verbal dexterity of the noble Cyrano – indeed we are treated to a pacy number shortly after first meeting him in the Theatre, where he outwits and out-fences a stooge for the cunning Count de Guiche whilst delivering a series of verses in rhyming couplets. Stylish.
A good mix all round, with Francesca Mills delivering some fine physical comic routines, Jessica Dyas with an understated but brilliantly funny turn in a number of ensemble roles, and Adam Barlow and Robert Wade combined beautifully to sing a nostalgic song, which was wonderful.
Notable mention also goes to Michael Hugo as the drunk poet Ligniere, who provides an entertaining narrative voice throughout. His interactions with the audience were a delight as much as his raucous drinking song which served as the show opener.
The show – adapted by Deb McAndrew and directed by her husband Conrad Nelson – is produced by Northern Broadsides – see their website for details of the remainder of the tour.