Cyrano de Bergerac

Reviewer's Rating

As well as the incomparable aesthetics of the tiny Théâtre le Ranelagh, with its mahogany panelling and plush red seats, Jean-Philippe Daguerre’s production of ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ triumphantly ticks three very notable boxes.

Firstly, if any director knows exactly how to catch an audience’s full attention from the outset, it is Daguerre. The opening scene of Cyrano de Bergerac is silent, demanding entire concentration on the visual movements on stage. As the unfortunately well-endowed (nose wise) protagonist walks into the limelight, all eyes are on him as he slowly dons his signature hat. His pensive movements suggest meditative self-preparation for the difficult journey of unrequited love that he’s about to face. As the solo violinist joins him on stage, there is a contrast between the total lack of sound, and the instrument he holds in his hands. The consequent suspense as you wait for him to play, and for the story to start, is palpable.

Secondly, the production wins in its attention to the detail of sound. Once the hauntingly beautiful strings begin to sound, the 17th century setting is instantly recognisable. Their melancholic notes are a well-matched accompaniment to the intimate golden lighting, and a perfect juxtaposition to the rich, colourful costumes. Mostly though, the music brings the old, poetic script to life. For a literature heathen like me, the violin’s quiet background songs, which support various soliloquys and dialogues throughout, allow me to appreciate the words’ significance. After all, even with an English translation projected above the stage, Rostand’s elaborate vocabulary is sometimes a bit too poetic and lovely to fully understand. This success of the violin is so effective that it is easy to forgive a slight failure at one later moment regarding the acoustics of war (consisting of Monty Python-esque recorded battle sound effects). When the gory cries of men and swiping of swords are over, the violin and its eerie magnificence return to capture the room once more.

Thirdly and above all, ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ ticks the ‘message’ box, and continues to impress after the play itself finishes. By this I mean that it leaves the spectator with something to think about as he or she takes the metro home. For me, the message in Cyrano is the age-old dictum that looks aren’t everything. Cyrano’s unshakeable belief in his own ugliness, bestowed upon him by the society he lives in, leads him to forever hide his commitment to Roxane. It may seem simple, but in a modern society filled with anorexia, protein-shakes, and selfies, this lesson is more relevant than ever. Although, one could argue that Rostand’s mocking of Christian – good looking but unwitty – along the arbitrary lines of natural intelligence, is as bad as judgement based on looks. But that’s the beauty (pardon the pun) of the play, as these questions are for you to figure out for yourself…


French translation:

Autant que le décor incomparable du Théâtre le Ranelagh, avec son lambris en acajou et ses détails ornementaux, il y a dans ce Cyrano de Bergerac, mis en scène par Jean-Philippe Daguerre, trois éléments qui retiennent l’attention.

D’abord, Daguerre a conçu une première scène dans le silence complet. Le public est captivé par les mouvements lents de Cyrano, qui suggèrent une préparation méditative au difficile parcours que ce dernier s’apprête à affronter, celui de l’amour non partagé. Et puis, un violoniste en solo le rejoint sur scène, sans un bruit, son instrument à la main. Intense moment où le temps se suspend en attend les premières notes de musique.

Le soin apporté aux détails acoustiques est le second élément notable. Les cordes d’une beauté envoûtante donnent vie aux dialogues de la pièce, datés et poétiques. Pour une néophite comme moi, les notes tranquilles du violon sont d’une aide précieuse pour apprécier le sens des mots.

Enfin, et surtout, Cyrano de Bergerac invite durablement le spectateur à la réflexion, même après la fin de la pièce. Pour moi, la leçon de la pièce est que la beauté et l’apparence ne suffisent pas. Mais l’oeuvre renverse aussi la question : l’intelligence naturelle d’un homme n’est-elle pas tout aussi arbitraire que la beauté d’un autre ? Et par conséquent, n’est-il pas aussi immoral de juger quelqu’un à son intelligence plutôt qu’à sa beauté ? Voilà sans doute l’une des questions qui font toute la beauté (sans jeu de mots) de cette pièce…