FringeReview Scotland 2018
The rhymer, the schemer, the man with the neb who can talk wi the best, Cyrano de Bergerac is in love. Unfortunately, his love is in love with someone else – a tongue tied handsome man whom Cyrano befriends and helps with the wooing. Cyrano does, with his heart conflicted, give beauty through words to his rival who wins his love for himself. Both soldiers, they then get called to the war that brings tragedy and an end to their rivalry.
This was a triumph. Morgan’s script is an impressive basis upon which to rest but rest it does not. As a starting point there is enough zing, zip and zap in the language that it bounces from the tongue through the direction from Dominic Hill into the feet of a well dressed and choreographed ensemble – what’s not to like. Actually, what’s not to love?
That is not say I saw perfection as the beginning does struggle to get going and I found it hard at times to hear the joyous language drip from the stage. It gave us all a challenge as this monster of the Scottish stage has nods to such largesse as Ane Satyre, winks at its past with Communicado and does not blindly limp into an arena where the wall behind it has its own nods and winks to a Scottish tradition of elegiac wonderment.
The opening is a challenge in any production of the play and the use of children and the playfulness of the start is nice and quirky but once the action moves it finds a better rhythm. Accompanied with some acoustics issues it makes it hard to tune in and get the gist, but part of the strength of this production is once you are in you are well and truly hooked.
With the trappings of their home being ripped into its new façade, the Citizens finds itself in a new home and to an extent re invigorated. It reminds me of the last time the Citz got an overhaul when the stage became both stage and stalls. It brought freshness and vitality and here the opportunity to delve into new staging and opportunities is clearly too good to miss.
There is little missed as a trick. The direction uses the full force of the closeness of the audience, brings the action in amongst us and with a minimalist set from Tom Piper, which really does give a great backdrop and platform, to some excellent choreography thanks to Kathy Lloyd-Jones and Renny Krupinski, to the crisp, clear and inventive direction of Dominic Hill, to where the costumes of Pam Hogg punks the production into the face of those of us fortunate enough to get in there, this just not create, it melts into one visual spectacle of gorgeousness; all accompanied by the fantastic compositions of Nikol Kodjabashia, all lit with style and panache by Lizzie Powell.
But for all the opportunities of the world given to a cast, once the rehearsal room is gone and left behind, this is a script that demands that ensemble to come together; this is an exceptional pool of acting ability and there are no bum notes.
Perhaps in an ensemble it is not the done thing to pick a few people out but let’s do so. George Drennan may be a part of an older guard now but one of the losses to the Scottish stage was not just the name but the ensemble that made up Wildcat; seeing him here reminded me of so many nights of utter joy.
In contrast seeing once again the confidence of youth and increasingly important young theatre maker, Isobel McArthur. One of the joys of this wee job is seeing some of the people you spot in training getting the confidence to progress their own work and develop further. As an example of how good the ensemble was I cannot think of anyone better. There was also the joy of so many recent graduates not just of the RCS but other drama schools getting an opportunity, as well as the current intern of the Citz, Malcom Cunning. Of such pools, futures are made.
But let me also speak of three principals. As De Guiche, Keith Fleming plays a fantastic foil to the whole piece. From the drunkard backstage to the fey fop onstage Fleming plays him to perfection. For the femme fatale, literally, Jessica Hardwick is gallus, forthright and highly desirable to both her suitors.
But in any Cyrano the weight rests upon the shoulders of that Cyrano. With a delayed entrance that suggests we are in for a treat, Bran Ferguson enters and drives all before him. This is not just fine, it is rhyming fine. If Morgan delivers a classic script his equal is in a ginger headed Scot who never drips and never drops in the delivery of the joy nor the thrust of the narrative.
Aside from the acoustics – and it will not be in the Tramway forever, the opening and the pace, this is an unbelievable celebration of Scottish theatre. It is a good time to nip into the theatre in Scotland, if you do this is a gallus and gallant telling of an international tale told in a tongue that celebrates rather than saddens is the one you should see.