Arts production company Chester Performs returns to Grosvenor Park for a fourth summer season, with additional seating that turns the terraced venue into a mini-Shakespeare’s Globe and an extended repertory programme pitching A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello alongside the premiere of Glyn Maxwell’s specially commissioned adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s romantic tragedy.
Using a cast of just 12 actors, Maxwell’s tailor-made version introduces a sisterhood of nuns as an opening chorus who go on to play a mix of male and female characters - a framing device that strikes a balance between the swashbuckling swagger and lush romanticism of the original story while injecting a powerful ensemble dynamic. This is further enhanced by Jessica Curtis’ simple design, which miraculously transforms a basic grass circle into an epic performance space.
Early on, poet-soldier Cyrano boasts how his notorious king-size nose is so sensitive it can sniff a scoundrel at 10 miles. Here, anyone with a nose for exciting drama ought to be able to detect the sweet smell of theatrical panache emanating from Lucy Pitman-Wallace’s fast-paced production, which quickly enters a 1640s world of swirling Parisian lanes, trysting lovers, duelling aristocrats and warring cadets, climaxing with a barricade-storming scene reminiscent of Les Miserables.
Perhaps the emotional triangle between Edward Harrison’s nasally challenged Cyrano, Sally Scott’s romantically innocent Roxane and Owen Findlay’s deeply unpoetic Christian needs time to grow. But the combination of nifty team work and Maxwell’s accessible language stands out as much as Cyrano’s conk, giving a classic drama the common touch. And that’s surely what good alfresco summer theatre is all about.