Theatre Review: Cyrano de Bergerac with James McAvoy

I love Cyrano. That’s all…

Director of the moment Jamie Lloyd has done it once again. After his defining season of Pinter plays culminated in the wonderful Betrayal, he started his residency at the Playhouse Theatre with the production of Cyrano de Bergerac.

Yes, that golden Oldie, known for the big nose, hats, feathers and sword fights. A story so well-trodden, that I won’t bother with a summation. Leave it up to Jamie Lloyd to transport age old ideas of chivalry, passion for words and love beyond the outside into these times and to make them feel fresh and new writes our theatre reviewer Bee.

The excellent adaptation from Martin Crimp finds words, that you and I can relate to, maybe speak ourselves. The setting and the music are modern and the actors are dressed like they came in off the street. And while the play purports  to take place in 1640, the ensemble shows you the face of London and the world of today. The representation of race, gender, dialect, body shapes and physical abilities is outstanding. 

All actors are brimming with energy and embody their characters with true feeling. Stand outs are the beautiful Anita-Joy Uwajeh as Roxanne – both sassy and determined, giving the role more agency than ever before. Michele Austin as the gender-swapped Ragueneau – all warm and supportive. And my personal favourite Tom Edden as de Guiche – making the despicable and smarmy count delightfully camp. 

Still they have a hard time competing with the power house James McAvoy. His Cyrano is everything: soulful, hot-headed, loyal, sharp, insecure, physical, eloquent and above all – in love! In his latest collaboration with Jamie Lloyd the actor is so magnetic, that you can hardly keep your eyes of off him. He is strikingly handsome and although this production forgoes the trope of the prosthetic nose, you can still feel his deformity and how it has shaped his self-image, his emotional core and his life. In one scene his friends start to taunt him after he doesn’t react to Christian’s mockery and you can see McAvoy retreating in the background with all his expected horrors of being the laughing stock – kept at bay before by sheer force – come to life in an instant. Cyrano retreats and he as a person literally and physically gets smaller and smaller in the process. With all the fun stuff going on – he is the bleeding heart of it all.

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Curtain Call for Cyrano

The magnificent achievement of this production is the fact that anyone who normally is a no show on theatre stages, can feel seen and addressed. Jamie Lloyd’s efforts to make theatre accessible to people who normally wouldn’t think of entering an arena such as the Playhouse are admirable. In allocating thousands of tickets for free to first time theatre goers and groups who can’t afford to pay for high class entertainment and even more £15 tickets on top of that, he is making a real difference. But all this would be in vain, if what you can see on stage doesn’t reach people. Here I can envision those new audiences realising that this is about them and for them.

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Get there early for Day Seats to see Cyrano de Bergerac at the London Playhouse Theatre.

 

What an exciting new (theatre) world we live in!

Cyrano de Bergerac closes its run on 29.02.2020. Tickets starting at £15 are still available for most dates. https://www.atgtickets.com/times/cyrano-de-bergerac/playhouse-theatre/2020-02-01 

And for those who will not be able to make it to London: NT live will broadcast a performance on 20.02.2020! http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/