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BWW REVIEW: Sport For Jove Reprises The Award Winning Production Of CYRANO DE BERGERAC

Saturday 17th June 2017, 7:30pm, York Theatre Seymour Centre Chippendale

Damien Ryan's adaptation of Edmond Rostand's classic romantic comedy, CYRANO DE BERGERAC returns to Sydney for an encore season, 4 years after it won the 2013 Sydney Theatre Award for Best Independent Production, Best Director and Best Actor. With a few cast changes due to availability, most notably Director and Adaptor Damien Ryan stepping into the central role, this fabulous work is set to delight audiences again.

For those that missed the 2013 season, Ryan's adaptation brings the famous work out of the 17th Century and into the early 20th Century in a pre World War I Paris. He has also adapted the language for a contemporary ear with new text and Australian accents, making it more accessible to a broader audience that may traditionally reluctant to contemplate classical texts whilst still retaining the poetry and playfulness of the original.

2017 Cast of CYRANO DE BERGERAC (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

As with many of Sport For Jove's works that are designed to travel, this production, originally staged outdoors in 2013 (Barry French, 2013 Set Design and Properties), has a simplicity to the set design which has been translated to an indoors production with additional input from Anna Gardiner (2017 Set and Costume Design). The opening play within a play unfolds on the relatively bare, expansive thrust stage which allows the audience and the full space of the York Theatre to be utilised as part of the crowd gathering to watch the portly Montfleury's performance. For the latter scenes, transitions are made smoothly and swiftly with the use of music to cover the wheeling out of set pieces on timber pallets, a common thread through many of Sport For Jove's larger stage productions. Even with the transportability of the pieces, there is an incredible attention to detail which balances the obviousness and the need for imagination. These pieces reinforce Sport For Jove's Independent theatre position but when paired with the high quality of the performances, proves that good works don't need the flash and shine of the main stage productions to be wonderful.

Drawing the work into late 1913 allows the costume design to be much simpler than The Musketeers ruffles and feathers of Rostand's original work whilst also drawing on the military conventions to help define the differences in characters. Gardiner (2017) presents the soldiers in uniform whilst gentlemen like pastry chef Rageneau are attired with black tie formality to attend the theatre and suits in daily life. The women's dress reflects the different social standings, from Roxane's more 'modern' Edwardian stylings to the lower class, 'buffet' girls' older Victorian stylings, indicating the ability to afford new clothes.

Lizzie Schebesta as Roxane (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

Whilst the work is somewhat dated in some of its concepts when viewed against the progress of society since Rostand wrote it in 1897, and the real Cyrano lived in the early 17th Century, the themes of love, loyalty, self-doubt, integrity over profit, self-sacrifice and courage still remain relevant. The company present the work with a perfect pace, hitting the comic moments squarely to elicit roars of laughter and drawing out the emotion to see the futility of war and humanity's inability to learn from its past. They also weave through the many roles well, blending into the background roles of chefs, poets, actors and soldiers with an ease that ensures they colour the scenes without drawing focus from the main story and stepping up to more prominent characters with a seamlessness.

As with other Sport for Jove works, Ryan has also incorporated some fabulous movement and moments of physical comedy into the work. The fight scene between Cyrano and viscount de Valvert (Tim Walter), choreographed by Scott Witt (also Assistant Director), is brilliantly executed with a comedy and precision that balances the weight of the desire to dispose of Roxane's suitor and the absurdity that Cyrano has proposed that he will describe the demise in the form of an impromptu ballad.

Damien Ryan's intimate knowledge of the work makes him a perfect fit to step into the role of Cyrano (portrayed in 2013 by Yalin Ozucelik), which he presents with gentle gravity and fabulous physicality, aided by the addition of an extensive prosthesis. Beneath Cyrano's confidence and courage that has actors fear him and soldiers worship him, Ryan subtly draws out the poet's sadness in his belief that he can never be loved because he has never felt love, constantly discounted, even by his own family, because of his nose, and the best he can do is have the love of his life be happy as he helps his rival to win her hand. The hurt that the soldier feels when he realises that Roxane has come to ask him to protect another, whom she has already decided she loves, is palpable and relatable to anyone who has ever lacked the confidence to admit their feelings, and then been 'friend zoned'.

Reprising her role as Roxane, Lizzie Schebesta gives the young woman a youthful energy along with an air of self-sufficiency, particularly as she diplomatically deals with Commander De Guiche's (James Lugton) unwanted amorous advances. She conveys Roxane's final understanding and awareness of her true feelings with a heartbreaking desperation that she has finally realised she's been in love with Cyrano all along but he, out of love for her, chose to not destroy the image she had of the beautiful but incredibly dumb Christian (Scott Sheridan).

Scott Sheridan captures the good looking but gormless Christian, with a convincing display of an easily recognisable 'beautiful but dumb' character that many would be able to relate knowing at some point in their lives. He presents the young Cadet's arrogance with hilarious ignorance due to his stupidity with the jibes at Cyrano landing perfectly to the point that you just want Cyrano or his Cadets to turn around and thump the twit. Sheridan ensures that Christian's egotism that he can win Roxane without Cyrano helps move support for Cyrano, building sympathy for the older man willing to forgo his own happiness for that of his love's.

Lizzie Schebesta as Roxane and Damien Ryan as Cyrano (Photo: Phil Erbacher)

This reprisal of CYRANO DE BERGERAC is another success for Sport for Jove as it continues to make interpretations of classical works that are accessible to new audiences. Still retaining the elements of Rostand's poetic play with clever new, equally flowing, text, this production is a perfect introduction for students and anyone that has hesitated to attend a classical work for fear of the complexity of the language. For those familiar with the original, it is delightful to see a more contemporary interpretation, set around events more familiar in modern history. A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining evening which will have you roaring with laughter and wiping away the odd tear.


York Theatre, Seymour Centre Chippendale Sydney

15 June -24 June 2017

The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra

28 June -1 July 2017

IMB Theatre, Illawarra Performing Arts Centre Wollongong

13 September - 16 September 2017

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