Large scale theatrical productions in big venues, although popular, are often treated with suspicion by Athenian audiences. Aiming at a larger target group, the directors most of the time rely widely on known and popular protagonists – sometimes not actors by profession and often of dubious talent and expertise – expensive props, luxurious costumes and sets and spectacular effects. Kakleas’ Cyrano de Bergerac, although it features some of the above, does not fall into this category.
Kakleas stages Rostan’s play four years after its successful rendering by Nikos Karathanos at the National Theatre, Athens. In this sweet and bitter comedy, Cyrano – an honourable swordsman and a charismatic poet – falls desperately in love with his cousin, Roxane. Despite his virtues, it is a physical defect of his, his overly large nose that puts him off from wooing Roxane. Things become worse when she confesses to him her love for Christian, a young nobleman, and asks Cyrano to take him under his protection.
Kakleas’ show is indeed spectacular: to start with, it is staged in the luxurious, state-of-the-art auditorium of the Pallas Theatre, a venue at the centre of Athens built in the early 1930s and extensively renovated some years ago. It features popular protagonists, impressive costumes and nice (though sometimes bulky) set pieces. But at the same time, although it does not claim any innovative theatrical approach, it is a wonderfully staged version, a purely poetic rendering of Rostan’s play.
The most important asset of the play is Vassilis Charalampopoulos (Cyrano). Established as a comic actor, he produces a marvelous performance of the romantic, brave and proud nobleman. Omiros Poulakis (Christian) is good but not up to that standard; understandably so, as good acting takes time and experience to achieve. Smaragda Karydi (Roxane) is a pleasant surprise, she is subtle and fresh (despite her age difference with Rostan’s heroine) in the role of the intellectual inamorata both men fall in love with.
Kakleas creates a dream atmosphere, supported by Deko’s moody lighting design; by Reboutsika’s wonderful original score – performed live by the composer herself and five more musicians; and by members of the cast framing the dialogues, dressed in costumes that make them seem as if they have just stepped out of a fairy tale. The downside is that the stage feels oftentimes overcrowded and overloaded with images, props and bulky set pieces. The play could definitely have done without them all. Still, they add to the magical, poetic atmosphere of the play and to its beauty, the way a colourful illustration makes a book beautiful without adding anything to our comprehension of the story, or a rhyme adds to poetry without affecting its content. Having said that, Louiza Mitsakou’s wonderfully poetic, rhyming translation – a pure pleasure to the ears, must be mentioned.
For his Cyrano, Kakleas chooses a safe path to tread on – probably a three star play for a reviewer. But, making the path beautiful with pleasant sounds and poetic images, it becomes a five-star experience for the audiences. I am not sure what counts most.