There is a definite end-of-term, larking about feel to the first hour of this final production of the Bristol Old Vic spring season.
The rhyming couplets employed by Ranjit Bolt, in his new translation of Edmond Rostand’s classic romance, rapidly jar on the nerves, and the pantomime approach suggests yet another exercise in dumbing down.
Director Simon Reade’s frenetic initial approach and Robert Bowman’s over-the-top interpretation of Cyrano’s mix of swagger and sensitivity are largely to blame, although a quite dreadful musical patisserie scene straight from television’s Ready Steady Cook doesn’t help.
But suddenly Reade puts the knockabout action aside and allows Rostand’s moving and beautiful story of the poet-philosopher, doomed to failure as a lover because of his enormous hooter, emerge. The makeover comes as Cyrano acts as surrogate scriptwriter for Kristofer Gummerus’ handsome but inarticulate Christian in his wooing of Zoe Waites’ idealistic Roxane. From then on, the audience is constantly reminded that ultimately this is a tragedy of epic proportions, but also one full of joie de vivre and with a final poignant death scene that is in itself a thing of beauty and sadness.
Bowman, in particular, recovers from his over-exuberant start to tease out all Rostand’s themes of unrequited love, loneliness, missed opportunities and selflessness, receiving suitably sympathetic support along the way from Deka Walmsley and Stephen Kennedy as his loyal friends Le Bret and Ragueneau.