The 36-year-old, Paris born and multitalented playwright, Alexis Michalik, surprises Birmingham with his celebrated play of Edmond de Bergerac which has been successfully running in France since 2016. Over these past three years, the play has been performed in France more than a thousand times in front of nearly three quarter of a million people. The French triumphant is now visiting the UK for the first time, in a translated version by Jeremy Sams, with numerous shows to be performed in Birmingham, York and London.
Cyrano de Bergerac is a play written by Edmond Rostand that debuted in Paris back in 1897. Edmond gave life to Cyrano, a 17th century soldier of the French Army who is blessed with intellectual brilliance and poetic charisma but also cursed with a disfigured proboscis for a nose. His appalling appearance triggered the development of his belief that no woman can ever love him. Cyrano is in love with his distant cousin Roxanne, a beautiful woman of high intellect, but his feelings remain caged due to his self-doubt and helpless insecurities.
A nobleman named Christian is also in love with Roxanne and soon enough Cyrano discovers that Roxanne loves Christian as well. Cyrano tells Christian Roxanne’s feelings for him, but Christian considers himself too simple of a man to have a woman of Roxanne’s intellect by his side. Cyrano decides to put his own feelings aside, knowing that he can never be with Roxanne, and helps Christian with his poetic talent, writing love letters to Roxanne on his behalf. In that way, he could still express his thoughts and feelings to Roxanne and still keep his identity a secret.
Christian recognizes the power of the letters and the effect they have on Roxanne, which helps him realize that Cyrano needs to express his own feelings to Roxanne and make her choose between them.
Cyrano is among France’s most popular literary figures and a distinctive theatrical icon which is still celebrated today. Over the centuries, it became a legend loved by thousands all over the world, and has been turned into musicals, operas, ballets and films.
Some can say that Michalik found a stepping stone by building his story around an existing and successful plot, the story of Cyrano de Bergerac. He was inspired after watching ‘’Shakespeare in Love’’ and thought that it would be interesting to recreate something with a similar concept about a French playwright.
‘’Nobody knows Edmond Rostand, but everybody knows Cyrano, the guy with the big nose’’ Michalik said.
He started writing the play of Edmond de Bergerac, focusing on the process of Cyrano’s making, in the eyes of its hopelessly romantic and poetic creator, Edmond Rostand.
As soon as it was showcased in Paris, its instant success became a long-lasting sensation over time.
…and that’s how the story begins…
Edmond Rostand is a French playwright who is struggling to make a living in Paris to support his wife and kids. After his latest theatrical flop, he desperately seeks for inspiration to write a new play. Despite his recent failure, he holds onto his hopes as he is convinced that inspiration will soon knock his door.
One evening, Edmond meets with his best friend and handsome bachelor, Leo, who tells Edmond how madly in love he is with Jeanne, a girl he recently met with great intellect and a passion for poetry. Leo tries to win her love through writing love letters to her, but he is unable to put his feelings into words, so Edmond offers to help him by writing the letters for him.
Edmond is finally enlightened, awaken, inspired.
He now has the story for his upcoming play and he is finally able to start writing again.
Will this be another big fat flop, or could it be an actual masterpiece?
Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Adam Blanshay Productions of Edmond de Bergerac completely aced it. A cast with bubbly performances, great chemistry among characters on stage and a true spectacle to the eye with gracious detailed period costumes, impressive moving sets and playful lighting.
The gifted young actor Freddie Fox in Edmond Rostand was remarkable, an incredible portrayal of Edmond as he managed to capture the playwright’s wit, sophistication and charm. The love triangle is completed with Robin Morrissey in the role of Leo and Gina Bramhill in Jeanne, who accurately followed their characters’ footsteps with their brilliant performances.
Henry Goodman in Constant Coquelin, who in Edmond’s play portrays Cyrano, was the kind of popular but quirky actor of his time that would only be excited to play heroic roles and star in comedies. He adored Cyrano’s character right from the start, and in fact he helped Edmond create him as he was writing the play. Goodman’s talent and rich acting history once again proved that he can conquer the stage, performing with absolute comfort while still staying true to his character.
The direction by Roxana Silbert combined with the works of movement director, Liam Steele, was a harmonized collaboration that significantly contributed to ‘’bring back to life’’ these mythical characters. Silbert’s clever setting structure and moving props, the live on-stage alternations and her play with the characters’ representations, kept us curious and entertained from the beginning until the end. As for the actors’ movement, Steele, continuously surprised us by keeping it lively, frisky and amusing, he used the type of movement that does not necessarily have to correlate with words but could be performed independently and still have the power to make the audience laugh to tears.
If you have a free evening and enjoy the occasional time traveling, Birmingham Repertory Theatre can take you for a walk in the streets of 19th century Paris, where you can meet Edmond Rostand and be part of Cyrano de Bergerac’s making.
For ticket bookings visit: https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/
Birmingham Repertory’s theatrical performances will continue until the 30th of March 2019.
By Emilia Antoniadou