I was not sure if I would enjoy Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. So, some French dude in the 17th century has a big nose, what of it?
To my surprise, I left the theatre feeling genuinely moved. Director Annie Fraser has taken a script, parts of which have not aged well, cut and modified it, and put on a production that, unlike the original, does not exult its protagonist but rather meditates on the consequences of his narcissism (i.e., he can’t see beyond his own nose).
That protagonist is Cyrano, a brilliant poet and swordsman. He’s in love with the intellectual Roxanne, but is reluctant to confess his feelings due to having a nose that “precedes him by fifteen minutes.” Upon hearing that Roxanne is interested in a soldier named Christian, who is, unbeknownst to her, “shit” with words, Cyrano has an idea – he’ll write love letters, Christian will sign, seal and deliver them, and at some point, he’ll tell the truth.
Things, needless to say, don’t go to plan.
I must admit I was a little disappointed when Cyrano (Eduard Geyl) first came on stage – his nose! It wasn’t bulbous, grotesque or large in magnitude, it was just a plain old nose. But as the play went on I felt that a prosthetic would have been unnecessary. Geyl never leaves the audience in doubt that he knows he is incapable of being loved. Nor does he let anyone else eclipse him on the stage. Indeed I was surprised that his bravado could give way to trepidation. He was so confident at the beginning of the play that I could not have imagined he had any insecurities.
Carla Field as Roxanne demands your attention. I particularly enjoyed her performance in the last scene when, contrary to the original script, it is implied that Roxanne was aware of the truth, suggesting that, to some degree, she was implicit in her own deception.
Roman Koteczky as Christian bizarrely reminded me of Keanu Reeves. His deadpan delivery, clashing with the more verbose Roxanne and Cyrano, was endlessly entertaining. He was also subtle enough in his performance to convince me that Christian, more than just being a tool of Cyrano’s, had a conscience that doubted the morality of the ploy.
Michael Kaufmann as De Guiche was excellent at being a douchebag. What really endeared me to him though was how he portrayed De Guiche following the fifteen-year time jump – stricken with guilt. Still, I did find it, in spite of the knowledge that time had passed, a very sudden change of heart. I would have liked more of an explanation as to why he went from hating Cyrano, to be willing to shake his hand. But the fault lies with the script in this case, not the director.
I could also tell the members of the ensemble had a fun time rehearsing and performing the play. The camaraderie between them seeped into their performances like cadets in a regiment downing pinot. I particularly enjoyed Kimmi Tonkin’s performance. Though she was in the background for the majority of the play, she often drew my attention with her hilarious reactions.
There is a moment when the play falls flat. In a scene where Cyrano stalls De Guiche by pretending to be a fool, the decision was made to project a pre-recorded video of Geyl onto the set instead of having the two actors interact in person. Whilst I did appreciate the cinematography, the audio was often out of sync, leaving me detached from the events on stage.
The set, while bare, was clever in its design. The far wall had been defaced and signed by the characters of the play. It was also adorned with posters of past SUDS productions, but their actors had been replaced with those of this production – blurring the line between the fictional setting of a theatre and the audience’s reality. Paris was right to realise that most of his work was already done for him. Morrissey on the other hand, had her work cut out for her with only a couple of lights at her disposal. One moment I was in a homely theatre, the next it was nightfall and an infinite chasm separated Cyranno and Roxanne, bridgeable only by words.
This production surprised me, made me chuckle and moved me at times (a rendition of La Vie en Rose was a tad on the nose but I still enjoyed it). SUDS has delivered again, keep your nose to the ground for upcoming productions.