Cyrano De Bergerac
by Edmond Rostand
Translated and Adapted by Anthony Burgess
with additional Welsh-language poetry by Twm Morys
Anthony Hopkins Theatre, Theatr Clwyd
14 April – 7 May 2016
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Wayne Cater – Mountfleury / Cadet
Steven Elliot – De Guiche
Victoria John – Duenna / Mother Margeurite
Daniel Llewelyn Williams – Captain Carbon de Castel Jaloux / Valvert
Sara Lloyd Gregory – Roxanne
Gwawr Loader – Bellerose / Lise / Sister Claire / Cadet / Wedding Singer
Rhys Parry Jones – Rageunau
Sion Pritchard – Le Bret
Aled Pugh – Marquise / Poet / Cadet
Steffan Rhodri – Cyrano de Bergerac
Marc Rhys – Christian
Simon Holland Roberts – Citizen / Poet / Cadet
Dafydd Llyr Thomas – Ligniere / Cadet
All other parts played by members of the community chorus.
Director – Phillip Breen
Designer – Mark Bailey
Lighting – Tina MacHugh
Music and Sound – Dyfan Jones
Fights – Renny Krupinski
Read an interview with Twm Morys in Wales Arts Review.
by Eryl Crump
The choice of Cyrano de Bergerac as part of Theatr Clwyd’s spring season, drawn up by new artistic director Tamara Harvey, may have raised some eyebrows. It maintains its French setting but raised more eyebrows when additional poetry by chaired bard Twm Morys was introduced into the script. But with Steffan Rhodri as a magnificent Cyrano and an all-Welsh cast Philip Breen’s production of Anthony Burgess’ translation of Edmond Rostand's play is done with style and panache.
The entire play is written in verse, in rhyming couplets and is responsible for introducing the word “panache” into the English language. Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, a nobleman serving as a soldier, in the French Army, is a brash, strong-willed man of many talents. In addition to being a remarkable duelist, he is a gifted poet. However, he has an extremely large nose, which is the reason for his own self-doubt. This doubt prevents him from expressing his love for his distant cousin, the beautiful and intellectual heiress Roxane (Sara Lloyd-Gregory), as he believes his ugliness denies him the 'dream of being loved by even an ugly woman.'
The play opens in Paris, 1640, in the theatre of the Hôtel Burgundy with Christian de Neuvillette (Marc Rhys) hoping to identify the young woman with whom he has fallen in love. It is a busy scene with much going on, from pickpockets to sword fights. Cyrano’s entry disrupts the play and leads to another duel. Fortunately for the audience the action slows down. The plot is simple but drawn out with long, wordy passages and very Shakespearean in style.
Steffan Rhodri attacks the title role with formidable energy as he leads the Gascon cadets into battle having first introduced Christian to Roxanne. There are laughs a plenty in the first half, especially during the balcony scene where Cyrano woos Roxanne with his verse on Christian’s behalf. Rhys Parry Jones’ Ragueneau, a pastry cook, also injects a considerable dose of humour into the play.
Twm Morys’ lyrical poetry, in my view, enhances this production but may not be to the non-Welsh speaker’s benefit. While many Welsh phrases are immediately translated the use of surtitles may have been more effective. Dyfan’s Jones’ score is excellent and the very minimalist design by Mark Bailey allows full use of the stage.
by Roger Foss
After the recent all-female adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s historical romance at Southwark Playhouse, guest director Phillip Breen’s production, with an all-Welsh cast led by Steffan Rhodri’s heroic big-nosed Cyrano, may appear to be minding the conventional gender gap. This compelling version tells the ever-popular verse-drama like it always was, without ever overloading the narrative with conceptual conceits. Nevertheless, the introduction of Twym Mory’s Welsh language poetry and brief moments of gorgeous choral singing emphasise the play’s rich lyrical qualities.
Breen, who trained at Theatr Clwyd under the Regional Young Director Scheme, is clearly in his directing element here. His confident staging employs the entire epic sweep of the Anthony Hopkins Theatre space, driving Anthony Burgess’ fluid translation to the max on Mark Bailey’s sparsely dressed set, where huge chandeliers cast a moody candle-lit glow over a swashbuckling world of war-time romantic liaisons.
As Cyrano, Rhodri wears a prosthetic Pinocchio-size proboscis with panache, looking every inch the rebel poet-soldier with a beautiful soul and an ugly face while ensuring that the most famous physical feature in European drama apart from Richard III’s hunch never gets in the way of moments of tender versifying, which he delivers with a painfully raw pin-drop intensity.
The central triangular relationship with Sara-Lloyd Gregory’s moonstruck Roxane, who mistakenly believes that Cyrano’s eloquent missives are penned by Marc Rhys’ verbally challenged Christian, is equally touching. The ensemble cast are on their mettle too, including Steven Elliott providing cold-hearted gravitas as the devious Comte and Rhys Parry Jones as the humble pastry cook with a bardic bent.
Verdict: Powerful, beautifully acted production that waxes lyrical in all the right places.
by Chris Eldon Lee
After his television dalliance with Gavin and Stacy it would be a delight to welcome Stephan Rhodri back to Theatre Clwyd in any role… but this one suits and extends him wonderfully. As the proud possessor on a not inconsequential hooter myself, may I welcome him to the Big Nose Club – as an absolutely excellent Cyrano de Bergarac.
This is a monumental play of Shakespearean proportions. A huge stage greets us, lit by a forest of candles and serenaded by a tuning orchestra. Tides of actors sweep across its grey pave stones…through lofty court, cynical battlefield and echoing nunnery … as a story of unrequited love and unrewarded honour emerges.
Blighted by his appearance, Cyrano employs his beautifully persuasive eloquence to win the heart of the woman he loves for his handsome, tongue-tied rival. “She kisses my words”, he forlornly observes, “not his lips”. The poetry – which flits from language to language – is sublime; with the Welsh poet Twm Morys supplementing Anthony Burgess’s English translation of Edmond Rostand’s original French text.
Rhodri’s entrance as Cyrano cleverly comes from the dark shadows at the back of the auditorium – so it’s a while before we see his problem. I thought I knew every big nose joke in the book (in my case they run in the family) but his litany of nasal puns is a bridge beyond. “My nose proceeds me” he cries … and it’s very impressive. Full marks to make up.
Like many men with an affliction, Cyrano resorts to being both bolshie and comic. It’s a hugely spirited, rumbustious performance, which turns on a sixpence into morose melancholy. Rhodri plays him as an anti-hero you can’t help cheering for or, indeed, crying for.
The object of his desires, the beautiful Roxanne, is played by Sara-Lloyd Gregory like a bouncing spring lamb with ringlets. Her arrival at the starving Gascony battle lines in celestial white gown and an aristocratic carriage stuffed with provisions is a wonderfully emotional set piece; the put-upon, defeated, squadron instantly reinvigorated.
Yet, in a moment, her beau, Christian, ('a nonentity with a pretty face' played by Marc Rhys) is slain; and when we next see her 15 years later she has taken her vows and joined a convent…receiving, weekly, the painfully principled Cyrano – who is still unable to plight his troth.
There’s no lack of emotional range in this production. It soars one minute and implodes the next. The management really should provide seatbelts
It is an undeniably long evening. The play runs for well over three hours; one of which passes before we even get to the crux of the matter. A more timid director might consider cuts. But which nuances do you axe? Which of the skilfully crafted statesman-like speeches do you abandon? And dare any director deprive the audience of even a few lines of such beautiful composed language? The play unfolds like an evening primrose – in its own time. And it’s worth the wait. Philip Breen certainly made the right call and his production is a five-star must-see.
If Theatr Clwyd ever ran a race of its most impressive plays ever, Cyrano De Bergerac would win it by a short nose.
British Theatre Guide
by Dave Jennings
This production of Edmund Rosland’s classic, based on the Anthony Burgess translation but delivered with a Welsh twist, is further evidence that the stewardship of new Artistic Director Tamara Harvey will continue to deliver high quality theatre. Not only do the characters talk with various Welsh dialects, but the script also benefits from some new Welsh language poetry by Twm Morys. Director Phillip Breen has pulled a master-stroke by ensuring that the period costumes of the seventeenth Century French Court sit perfectly in the Welsh context.
The performance lasts around three hours but the all-Welsh cast ensure that it does not drags at any stage. On stage for most of the duration, and with industrial amounts of dialogue to deliver, Steffan Rhodri’s performance in the title role was perhaps best summed up by a member of the audience at the end as a “tour de force”. From the moment he emerges from the rear of the auditorium, sporting a nose that once seen will not be forgotten, to the final breath of his death scene, Rhodri has the audience transfixed as he delivers a performance of energy, wit and, to coin a phrase the play introduced to the English language, panache. A standing ovation on First Night is a fitting testament to the power, not only of his performance but also that of the supporting cast.
Sara Lloyd-Gregory is equally impressive in her portrayal of Roxanne, who seems to be a member of the French Aristocracy with thoroughly modern attitudes. Her arrival shortly before the battle starts is a captivating moment that demonstrates so much about the strength of this production with good use made of the full stage, outstanding costume and design and humour and sadness in equal balance. Her incongruent greeting of “Bore Da” only serves to underline the success of transposing a Welsh aspect to Seventeenth Century France. Also a favourite with the audience was Rhys Parry Jones as Ragueneau whose musical praise of almond pie is almost a showstopper in itself.
The theme of the play is of the heroic soldier Cyrano De Bergerac, whose fighting ability is rivalled by his gift for words, and his complex about his particularly large nose. Believing that Roxanne could never love him, he sets about using his skill with words to help Baron Christian de Neuvillette, played by the excellent Marc Rhys, win her hand. This involves much intrigue and a hilarious balcony scene which is one of the highlights of the evening.
This production of Cyrano De Bergerac is ambitious in scope, but it delivers a vibrant combination of humour, action and sorrow with that essential touch of panache.
Arts Scene In Wales
by Steve Stratford
Anybody who nose anything about Cyrano de Bergerac nose that the legendary bon viveur, poet and swordsman had a particularly protuberant proboscis. But woe betide anybody who happens to refer to this aspect of Cyrano’s physiognomy, because he’s especially sensitive on the subject.
There’s a great scene when a visiting Norman baron continually interrupts one of Cyrano’s lengthy dictums by forcing the word nose, or derivatives thereof, into the speech. Traditionally, Cyrano would slice this man in half with his rapier without a second thought, but this Norman baron so happens to be the apple of the eye of Cyrano’s beautiful cousin Roxane, and so he has to keep that blade sheathed.
Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac is a play purely about love, both proclaimed and unrequited. It is presented here by Theatr Clwyd as a farce, as well as a comedy, as well as a tragedy. It has its tongue firmly in its cheek, and Phillip Breen’s production leans heavily on the humour, but this wayward lack of stylistic focus sometimes works against it. When it’s funny, it does its job well, and the cast are obviously having a whale of a time. But when the play calls upon the audience to take these characters seriously, that earlier lack of sincerity can make it harder to engender genuine empathy. These people are amusing buffoons and histrionic cyphers, although despite this, there were still a few teary eyes in the house when the lights went up.
Standing self-assuredly at the centre of the production is Steffan Rhodri in the title role. He has a voice like honey, and is perfectly cast as a man whose eloquence, whose mastery of language, is his greatest talent. There are some achingly fervent and beautifully written poetic passages in Anthony Burgess’s adaptation, and Rhodri delivers them with unashamed confidence and heartfelt authenticity. This is a significant performance in Rhodri’s already significant stage career: he injects passion into his poetry, and turns a humorous phrase with ease. He is, by far, the greatest thing about this production.
It is principally an ensemble cast made up of a good many Theatr Clwyd faithfuls who double (and sometimes triple) as various characters. Daniel Llewelyn-Williams proves his flair with a rapier in two military roles, while there are also enjoyable turns from Simon Holland Roberts, Dafydd Llyr Thomas and Sion Pritchard. Wayne Cater makes his mark with the brief part of “tragic actor” Montfleury, a gift of a role which he milks with aplomb, while Aled Pugh gives an amusing (though stereotypical) performance as an effete Marquis.
Other leading players include Steven Elliott as the stony-faced Le Comte de Guiche, a lovely performance which puts one in mind of David Warner; Sara Lloyd-Gregory as the purposeful Roxane, the cousin of Cyrano for whom he has a desperately unrequited love; and Marc Rhys as the “comely but dumb” Baron Christian de Neuvillette. Rhys is a handsome chap, and won’t be fresh to comparisons with a certain Game of Thrones heartthrob, but he gives the part youthful energy and enthusiasm.
The plot, which revolves around Cyrano’s undeclared passion for his cousin, and in turn his cousin’s burgeoning passion for the dashing Christian, would have made a great Carry On film. Christian is useless with words, which is unfortunate as Roxane is wooed best by the magical art of poetry and soft words. So he asks the lexicographically gifted Cyrano to write heartfelt missives to his sweetheart to prompt their betrothal. This ploy works, but as the play rolls out, much to both Cyrano’s and Christian’s regret.
This play is a triumph of prose and poetry, structured as it is in rhyming couplets and partially Alexandrine verse. Rostand was an adept writer, and Burgess has managed to translate that genius well. There’s a proliferation of Welsh phrases scattered throughout the piece (as well as new work from Twm Morys), which butts heads with the 17th century Parisian setting. Some might say that the swapping of French for Welsh is an obvious choice, as lyrical and poetic as the Celtic language is. Others might say it is eye-rollingly predictable to Welshify the text. However, it’s undeniable that the experiment works well.
If there’s one thing that needs work, it’s the length. This production rolls in at a buttock-numbing three hours (plus interval). Some might balk when told that the first half alone clocks in at an hour and forty minutes. The play is verbose by reputation and necessity, but there’s plenty of gristle that could be shaved off the adaptation to make it friendlier. Just as some of Cyrano’s soliloquies are circumlocutory, so Rostand’s writing was sometimes a little prolix, and Burgess may have done well to snip a bit off here and there.
If you’re looking for an action-packed swashbuckler, look elsewhere because there’s only a tipping of the plumed hat to sword-fighting and combat here. But if you want a purely written and authentically told love story, laced with good humour and clever badinage, this is the play for you. And above all, there’s Steffan Rhodri’s towering central performance, which he presents with such confidence and, yes, panache.
Theatre in Wales Website
by Victor Hallett
Panache : a tall plume worn by a military commander in his cap to make him more visible in battle. Also, of course, being dashing, flamboyant and exciting. Panache is something that Cyrano de Bergerac believes in and also describes Steffan Rhodri's magnificent performance in this big, bold production.
Indeed it also describes director Phillip Breen's handling of his large cast. This is a glorious, ebullient, colourful and highly energetic production. It is given greater richness by the seamless insertions of Welsh language poetry written by Twm Morys.
Even though Steffan Rhodri is the motor at the core, it's not a one-man show. Marc Rhys is a delight as love-lorn Christian who gets Cyrano to provide the words with which he courts Roxane. And Sara Lloyd-Gregory is equally delightful as Roxane, blonde and bubbly but not empty-headed.
The large cast fill the stage with larger than life characters with Steven Elliott's Comte de Guiche attempting to keep himself separate from and somewhat above this pack of unruly low-life.
Mark Bailey's versatile design ranges from a theatre - lots of chandeliers - a garden with a balcony, a battlefield - lots of broken chandeliers - and a convent, an almost bare stage. This last is for the quiet and moving final scene, beautifully played.
You'll remember all of this but what you'll remember above all is Steffan Rhodri's Cyrano, nose long and unmistakeable, rhymes tumbling out at a ferocious rate (thanks to Anthony Burgess' wonderful translation), dealing with friend and enemy alike with, there's only one word for it, panache.
We Are Chester
by Angela Ferguson
Apparently the word ‘panache’ came into the English language through the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac back in 1897, with a modern day equivalent being ‘swagger’. Well, call it what you will, but the all Welsh ensemble in Theatr Clwyd’s latest production certainly have their fair share of it and the audience loved it. There was even a standing ovation involved when the time sadly came for us to go home.
It was an evening of true escapism, not only in terms of the stunning surroundings of the theatre, which overlooks the beautiful Clwydian hills, but in being taken on a journey back in time to ‘Three Musketeers’ era Paris, with a bit of a good old-fashioned romance and swashbuckling thrown in for good measure.
Cyrano de Bergerac is the third production of Tamara Harvey’s inaugural season as artistic director and it takes place in the Anthony Hopkins Theatre, making full use of the commanding surroundings. It is based on the Anthony Burgess translation and adaptation of the classic tale from the mind of Edmond Rostand. Burgess, best known for his dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange, incorporates rhyme into his translation, just as Rostand did in his 19th century play.
And so, to the story. Dashing soldier Christian seemingly has it all – good looks, a great career and the love of a beautiful woman.
But when it comes to expressing his love for the enchanting Roxane (Sara Lloyd-Gregory), Christian (Marc Rhys) can be left tongue-tied and prone to saying the wrong thing. This leaves him in grave danger of losing his love to the determined rival for Roxane’s affections, Le Comte de Guiche (Steven Elliott).
Luckily, Christian knows a man who can – write poetry, that is. In soldier and gifted poet Cyrano (Steffan Rhodri), Christian is fortunate enough to have a friend who – rather incredibly – puts aside his own feelings for Roxane to help his pal woo the woman of his dreams.
Poor Cyrano, who has crippling confidence issues when it comes to seeking love due to his large nose, must stay in the shadows – proverbially and literally. Despite his prowess on the battlefields and his successes when it comes to duelling, he plays a supporting role to Christian on this occasion by feeding him the right words to woo Roxane from beneath her balcony and via love letters.
Suffice to say there are a fair few interesting developments along the way, which leave the audience laughing and captivated in equal measure by the drama playing out before us.
The all Welsh ensemble enchanted and entertained the audience in equal measure throughout the performance, with a generous dose of hauntingly beautiful and harmonious singing and a liberal sprinkling of Welsh poetry from chaired bard Twm Morys making this a feast for the senses.
Full credit to Dyfan Jones for being the musical whizz for this production, along with talented director Phillip Breen and designer Mark Bailey, who worked together to make a truly memorable and hugely moving production.
Swaggerer-in-chief Steffan Rhodri left comedy character Dave Coaches from Gavin and Stacey well and truly behind at Barry Island to lead a lively and engaging ensemble of actors. The cast included some talented actors from the local community.
It seems unfair to single out any particular actors as the whole cast were excellent, but a special mention should go to Sara Lloyd-Gregory for her captivating and somewhat ethereal performance as Roxane, Sion Pritchard as Cyrano’s loyal companion Le Bret, Steven Elliott as Cyrano’s dark and ruthless nemesis Le Comte de Guiche and Rhys Parry Jones, who channelled a bit of the Hairy Bikers in his charismatic portrayal of poetry-loving baker Ragueneau. I was also blown away by the angelic voice of Gwawr Loader (Lise/Sister Claire).
It’s clear to see that Theatr Clwyd is a jewel in the crown of regional theatre in the UK and a real asset to those of us fortunate enough to live close by. When can I go back?
Wayne Cater as Montfleury. Photo © Pete Le May
Photo © Pete Le May
Photo © Pete Le May
Sara Lloyd-Gregory as Roxane, Steven Elliott as Le Comte de Guiche. Photo © Pete Le May
Sara Lloyd-Gregory as Roxane. Photo © Pete Le May
Sara Lloyd-Gregory, Steffan Rhodri and Marc Rhys. Photo © Pete Le May
Steffan Rhodri, Sara Lloyd-Gregory and Marc Rhys. Photo © Pete Le May
Aled Pugh, Dafydd Llyr Thomas, Gwawr Loader, Wayne Cater and Steffan Rhodri. Photo © Pete Le May
Aled Pugh, Gwawr Loader, Wayne Cater, Dafydd Llyr Thomas, Steffan Rhodri, Marc Rhys, Sion Pritchard and Daniel Llewelyn-Williams. Photo © Pete Le May
Marc Rhys as Christian, Sara Lloyd-Gregory as Roxane. Photo © Pete Le May
Sara Lloyd-Gregory as Roxane, with Gwawr Loader, Dafydd Llyr Thomas, Wayne Cater,
Aled Pugh, Sion Pritchard, Daniel Llewelyn-Williams and Steven Elliott. Photo © Pete Le May
Steffan Rhodri as Cyrano de Bergerac. Photo © Pete Le May
Steffan Rhodri as Cyrano de Bergerac. Wigs, Hair and Make-up by Deb Kenton. Photo © Pete Le May
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