Cyrano de Bergerac

There is similiarity between the two Lyceum productions I’ve seen this season and that is both use elements of contemporary society, and try to whip up a frenzy of fun.

The party atmosphere of Twelfth Night is repeated in the current Cyrano de Bergerac, and while Twelfth Night stayed true to the Shakespeare text, Cyrano uses Edwin Morgan‘s Scots rhyming couplet translation of Edmond Rostand‘s work.

Acclaimed as a great hit in 1992 when first performed, and popularly revived in 1996, it seems obvious that this version should be successful again. Yet I found myself somewhat underwhelmed by the sheer weight of Scottish vocabulary declaimed by Brian Ferguson as a wee hard man Cyrano.

It’s a cultural shift to the character, which threatens to drown out the inherent poetic sensibility of the play. Added to this, a chaotic opening scene of theatrical extravagance and exaggeration goes on far too long, given that it is there for Cyrano to protest about. The novelty value of hearing broad Scots on stage is no longer with us, and at times the language seemed almost contrived.

Jessie Hardwick as Roxanne is more accessible, true to the spirit of the part,and gorgeously clad in her Pam Hogg dresses. Scott Mackie as Christian, her handsome but inarticulate suitor, for some reason wore present day trousers at odds with the rest of the regiment. The Siege of Arras was a poignant scene, enhanced by the excellent stage setting of Tom Piper and dramatic lighting by Lizzie Powell. Throughout the staging was nothing less than stunning.

There remains for me, however, the question of why it is assumed that plays from another culture must be assimilated into our own. We could enjoy having our vision stretched by immersing ourselves into 19th century French theatre and walking three hours in these shoes. Three hours. It’s a fun production but like the Siege was to Roxanne – too long.

A co-production of Lyceum Theatre, Citizens Theatre, and National Theatre of Scotland
Lyceum theatre until November 3rd


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