Friday, June 30, 2017


Written by Edmond Rostand
Adapted and directed by Damien Ryan
Sport For Jove Theatre Company
Canberra Theatre Centre at the Playhouse to 1 July

Reviewed by Len Power 29 June 2017

‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ by Edmond Rostand premiered in France in December 1897.  It’s now considered one of the greatest plays the world has ever known.  Its irresistible story explores the love-triangle between Cyrano, a poet and soldier with an impossibly gigantic nose, who loves the beautiful Roxane but lacks the courage to tell her, wooing her instead through the good looks of a young hero, Christian.  It’s funny and it’s tragic and it’s very, very moving.

In 2013, Damien Ryan won the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Direction and Best Production with this show which was first performed outdoors.  Ryan also adapted the play and is now performing as Cyrano in the current touring production.

Damien Ryan as Cyrano

 The stage setting by Anna Gardiner for this production no doubt owes a lot to the 2013 design by Barry French.  It still suggests an outdoor atmosphere with low lighting in the auditorium as the audience is seated and the set is enhanced by Daniel Barber’s clever light and shadow design.  Anna Gardiner’s costume design is excellent and the level of detail in the set pieces and properties onstage is constantly interesting.

Entering the auditorium before the play commences, the audience is surprised to hear Edith Piaf singing.  It’s a clue that this production is not going to be predictable.  Damien Ryan’s adaptation is set in 1913 but the dialogue includes modern day references and uses today’s speech patterns, making it very accessible and very funny at times.

Damien Ryan, in the marathon leading role, is superb.  His rapid fire line delivery is absolutely clear and understandable and his characterisation and emotional journey are totally believable.  As Roxane, Lizzie Schebesta is wonderful in the key role of the beautiful woman desired by three men and Scott Sheridan is hilarious and very real as Christian, the handsome young soldier struggling for words to woo Roxane.  James Lugton gives an impressive performance as De Guiche, commander of the French armies and John Turnbull is memorable as Ragueneau, the pastry chef.  The rest of the 18 member company play more than one role, giving us a multitude of realistic and entertaining characters.

Scott Sheridan as Christian and Lizzie Schebesta as Roxane

Damien Ryan has directed a production that moves at great speed and is constantly interesting and enjoyable.  It’s performed so well that the emotional impact of the end of the play is devastating even if you know what’s coming.  This show is what great theatre is all about.

Photographs by David James McCarthy
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘Artcetera’ program (9am Saturdays) and other selected Artsound programs.