Cyrano de Bergerac – Lyceum

My expectations for this play, and this particular adaptation, were deftly annihilated within the opening scene where they shall remain in tatters. From the very first instant until the final line, the stage thrums with a vivacity that swells from the earthy Glaswegian verse, courtesy of Edwin Morgan’s translation, and leaves the audience trembling (or in my case) sobbing in awe.

Cyrano de Bergerac is the tale of the eponymous Frenchman (Brian Ferguson), famous for his sword- and word-play in equal measure. Tragically, his ventures in love are unjustly hampered by his gargantuan nose, which supposedly detracts from his elegant wit and poetic poise. Failing to catch the eye of his beloved Roxane (Jessica Hardwick), Cyrano chooses to collaborate with his rival Christian (Scott Mackie), whose charming features disguise a shallow and uncultivated mind. Together, these flawed characters hope to create a whole man worthy of the mesmerising Roxane.

In a play where the potency of language transcends all other displays of love, valour, or talent, what could emphasise this point more than its performance in the Scottish vernacular? The Glaswegian dialect transforms a once stuffy, archaic text into a timeless masterpiece. Morgan’s translation is at once coarse and refined, chaotic and emotive, striking and tender. The hot-blooded rhythm of his words pounds through the play like a beating heart, akin to the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare.

Of course, it is the magnificent delivery from a truly talented cast itself, which imbues Morgan’s words with such a magical quality. The supporting cast are superbly capable in their musical and theatrical contributions, which only enrich the outstanding individual performances. Ferguson’s irresistible swagger engulfs the audience in a heady concoction of effortless rhythm, romantic declarations, and devastating ripostes, whilst Gabriel Quigley’s Ragueneau delivers comic relief timed to perfection.

The set itself is tastefully simple, though there is a hint of flamboyance in its metatheatrical layout, highlighting the performative atmosphere. This gradually fades, however, into the desolate backdrop of war until the final scene where everything is stripped to a single tree, represented merely by scaffolding. Such a thoughtful setting is complemented by the deliciously jazzy ensemble, to which most of the cast ably contributes, and which elevates the play further in its inclusive, teasing sound.

To declare this play the greatest love story of all time would be trite and demeaning, and yet, much like Cyrano, I am struggling to find any other appropriate words. As an audience, we are delighted with many forms of love, from the worn-out marriage of an erratic baker and her wife, to a man who gladly offers unassuming and dependable companionship to his unrequited love. It is a story of devotion, sacrifice and respect – ultimately, of love in its purest form – delivered with the utmost sincerity and warmth.

 

PHOTOS: Mihaela Bodlovic

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Georgia Turnbull

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