[Gifted] This post is in association with The Royal & Derngate Theatre Northampton.
Here I am again, back with another cultural insight into the world of theatre by reviewing the play “Edmond de Bergerac”. Now let me begin by saying when this opportunity came knocking I had to pause and google what I was signing up for because I knew the name, the phrase but couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
The press release reads as such: Edmond de Bergerac is the hilarious story behind Cyrano de Bergerac. Set in Paris in 1897, playwright Edmond Rostand (Freddie Fox) is approaching his thirtieth birthday with no new plays but a whole lot of worries. He has not written anything in two years and in desperation has promised a new play to the acting superstar, Constant Coquelin (Henry Goodman).
Right from an opening couple of scenes, it was obvious this play was going to be a hyper form of realism, a dynamic mix of sets, acting changes and pure thespian magic. In a strange blend of intercontextuality the play tells the story of a writer, using his own words, life experience and love letters to create a play of which tells a more exaggerated version of his own private life – but with a few extra additions, like a duel!
The cast is fabulous and committed to every role with so much passion and dedication that even when they play several characters you can easily follow which character is which just by their talent of giving each character their own personality. With big names like Freddie Fox, Henry Goodman, Josie Lawrence and Chizzy Akudolu the play carries great presence and though they were all great it was the supporting cast that stole the show in my opinion – in particular, Simon Gregor; who plays some very wild, over the top and somewhat comical characters such as The Wardrobe Master and the Hotel Receptionist. And Robin Morrissey as Leo, Edmonds friend and ultimately the victim of a stolen identity whose comedic timing and compatibility with the other actors makes every scene and almost every line he delivers a laugh out loud moment.
Another aspect of this production that I really enjoyed was the very clever use of the set and stage actions to convey something else happening. Most worthy of a mention is the scene where Leo has climbed a ladder and the ladder ends up falling to the street and also the imitation of the train using costumes to mimic the engine and the use of props and acting to give the illusion the characters are riding in a shaky carriage. Yes, we are aware of how they are done, but in the setting, it’s just pure theatre magic and that is something I love.
Edmond’s play, Cyrano de Bergerac takes many tumbles and suffers several setbacks before it gets off the ground and even when it finally does make it to opening night the lead actress suffers a tragic injury. But the actors playing actors in a play within a play muster on and the production of Cyrano is greeted with multiple encores and raving reviews as the play is a huge success. Cementing Edmond Rostand as the famous playwright we know today and the tale of Cyrano has lived on with him, inspiring many adaptations across all forms of the arts including Theatre, Film, Radio and TV.
I think the underlying message that both Cyrano and Edmond deal with that makes this piece stand out and so relatable is what I guess is modernly called “Catfishing”. The idea of falling for someone’s words and charm without seeing them or knowing who they really are. It just gives you a sense of perspective and a sense of realism that helps the audience relate to the play on a deeper level.
Overall I went into this show apprehensive and unsure of what I was about to watch and instantly within minutes I felt right at home and walked out at the end thoroughly enjoying the whole experience. It’s touring soon and if you get a chance to catch this adaptation I highly urge you to go and check it out.
Running until the 13th of April at the Royal & Derngate Theatre Northampton.