Friday, 8 November 2019

REVIEW: Cyrano de Bergerac at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury

The Watermill Young Company's latest production is a charming and fun version of the story of the French poet and swordsman, Cyrano, based on the original play written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand in an adaption written in 2013 by Glyn Maxwell. It is great script full of modern witty lines but sticking closely to the plot of the original five act play , particularly in the first Act (which reflects the first three acts of the original). Oddly the shorter second act set in the siege of Arras and fifteen years later in a Covent seemed rather rushed and less well written than the excellent first act.

Simply set with an overhead walkway, single door and a cut out round window and with an excellent set of period costumes all designed by Cory Shipp, they create a good period feel and the different levels are well used. The critical scene, so memorably played by Steve Martin in the 1997 movie Roxanne, where Christian tries to woo Roxanne on a balcony using the words of Cyrano is very well done by the young cast. Director Seamus Allen provides strong direction getting the best from the ensemble cast who deliver the lines with confidence and clarity. There are nice flourishes like when they effectively stage Cyrano's defeat of 100 soldiers in choreographed movement in a lightening storm and the rousing chants of the cadets before battle.

The cast of eighteen work well but a number of them who stood out in the production of Moonfleet earlier this year again shine. Frank Smith returns this time as Cyrano with a wonderfully proud extended nose and leads the cast well. As the character says "the tears take an hour to roll down my nose" but she engages well with the audience and conveys the dashing hero who leads the troops as well as the love for Roxanne (with Isabelle Klein returning as the love interest). Christian (Harry Forkin) is the weak foolish suitor who can't express himself and Ragueneau, (Joely Hopkins) is the baker who supports Cyrano with free food and they effectively work with the lead characters creating distinctive characterisations. They are well supported by the rest of the cast often in multiple roles.

It is wonderful to see the Watermill Theatre providing an opportunity for this
young cast to develop their skills in this delightful venue and the result has a good professional feel about it. It is a strong production, well performed and an enjoyable tale. It whets the appetite for the recently announced production of a new version of the story with James McAvoy which will open in the New Year at the Playhouse theatre in London and I hope that they will get a chance to see it and judge for themselves how their own version measures up against a full professional production.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls, Row D | Price of ticket: £12
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