CYRANO DE BERGERAC
Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London SW1
Opened 14 December, 1992

Big Nose Strikes Again: the latest appearance of the hooter-heavy hero is visually ravishing, with swashing buckles aplenty, but director Eiijah Moshinsky seems not to have paid attention to the words. John Wells's translation aims for accuracy at the expense of vibrancy, trudging along in metrically weak blank verse rather than Rostand's cannonade of couplets. Alert direction and acting could compensate for this, but neither Moshinsky nor his cast takes the hint: Stella Gonet as Cyrano's beloved Roxane and Gary Cady as his rival/proxy Christian are anodyne creations, and Julian Glover seems on auto-pilot as the Comte de Guiche. So it's all down to Robert Lindsay.

It's testimony to his ability that, despite setting out to make Cyrano less than sympathetic, Lindsay nearly succeeds in carrying the production virtually single-nostrilled. The defiant self-consciousness with which he invests Cyrano would in other circumstances be an interesting sidelight on the character, but here no conventions are established strongly enough to bear such challenge. Cyrano's death, lunging and slashing at visions of his old enemies lies, cowardice and compromise, may be intended to evoke commedia dell'Arte, but it's at the expense of the one quality Cyrano prizes above all else his panache. At its best Cyrano is sentimental rather than tragic, but it's magnificently so; here we get the picture of sentimentality, not the thing itself. It's the first stage or screen version of the play to fail to make me cry.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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