Blue Sky Theatre Productions

The ensemble does a breath-taking job

by admin



“The comedy and tragedy of a Frenchman with a large nose was Edmond Rostand’s peerless creation in 1897. Written for a nation that was in danger of forgetting its art and culture, Cyrano de Bergerac symbolises the still relevant struggle between skin-deep attraction and the lasting beauty of a soul.

It’s the story of an army captain, named in the play’s title. Equally at home with both his quill and a duelling sword, he is in love with his distant cousin Roxane, but is fearful his love will not be returned due to his very large nose. Instead, he takes under his wing a new cadet, Christian, who is also in love with Roxane, but has little wit or intellect to express it. Cyrano helps him by writing Christian’s letters to her, and she falls for his words.

The play was originally performed in rhyming couplets, but over the last 120 years, has been translated many times into other languages and forms: in theatre, cinema and opera. This recent interpretation by Glyn Maxwell, performed by Blue Sky Theatre, makes the language contemporary at the expense of most of its classical poetry – but in doing so, its accessibility brings the story to new audiences.

Blue Sky Theatre Productions have a partnership with Open Gardens South Australia to tour their productions around the state in many beautiful locations, and so on a warm summer’s evening in the gardens of Eden Valley’s Collingrove Homestead, a hundred or so of us picnicked, before immersing ourselves in the story of Cyrano and his fateful journeys into love and battle.

The titular character is played with great panache – and a substantial nose – by James Edwards, and he revels in the best lines of the play, eloquently delivered to the character’s friends and enemies in equal measure. He maintains Cyrano’s poetry and jauntiness through the clash of swords, and even the modern wit works when he offers it.

The baker Ragueneau (Joshua Coldwell), wins the hearts of the audience not just with his offers of croissants and tarts, but with his infectious generosity and loyalty to all those around him. He sustains the connections between the main roles and the ensemble.

Leighton Vogt’s Le Bret provides great support as Cyrano’s friend who knows when to hold him up and pull him back, and Lee Cook’s Count Antoine de Guiche has the right balance of menace, creepiness and finally, redemption – his anger and frustration is evident without overpowering the lyrical words of Cyrano.

Roxane (Ashley Penny) has both innocence and ignorance. Roxanne’s gushing over her handsome beau to get her way contrasts well with both the clever deceit of de Guiche, and her battleline bravery.

Robert Bell’s Christian is brilliant – Christian doesn’t have the linguistics of Cyrano or Roxane, yet he portrays this inadequacy with wonderful facial expressions, the delivery of simple words to earn the largest laughs, and his physicality around the others.

The ensemble does a breath-taking job of playing everyone else, with seamless costume changes and distinct characterisations (though the excess of accents was distracting) – and the costumes from the team of Rob Andrewartha, Viki Burrett, Jan Kershaw, Anna Payne and Matthew Rossi are fantastic.

Dave Simms directs his cast tightly, his tableaux and battles well choreographed. He surrounds the audience with the story, the action racing up and down the aisles, sustaining the narrative pace even with a few stutters with overlapping lines. No voices are artificially amplified – and the performers mostly project well into the audience, with only a handful of lines lost when they turn their backs. Lighting is entirely from the sun for the first act, with some floodlights helping after the interval, once that has set.

The set design is simple – a wooden table, three crates and a pair of flagpoles that become curtains; with the garden location, this demonstrates that good drama doesn’t need the diversions of a clever set.

This play offers an unpredictable mix of comedy, tragedy and redemption, urging us to go beyond the superficial, before it’s too late.”

Review by Mark Wickett, Stage Whispers