Cyrano: a theatre review by Alex First

September 30, 2022 by Alex First
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A massive triumph. The MTC production of the season. A talented cast, headlined by writer and star Virginia Gay proves that the pen is mightier than the sword.

Virginia Gay has written and stars in MTC’s Cyrano                           Photo: Jeff Busby

This is a contemporary rewrite of the classic play by Edmond Rostand about a French army soldier and gifted poet with a particularly large nose enamoured by his cousin.

She – Roxanne – is a beautiful and talented intellectual, but Cyrano is encumbered by his proboscis in his quest to woo her. He fears rejection because of his ugliness.

Instead, he ends up aiding the pursuits of a simpleminded but handsome cadet named Christian, unable and unwilling to tell Roxanne the truth about how he feels.

In this MTC outing, the piece is turned on its head.

A wordsmith of the highest order, modern Cyrano is a woman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, cutting down anyone who dares challenge her by outwitting them.

In this case, pushing her buttons are members of the ensemble.

They include a show pony with tickets on himself (Robin Goldsworthy), who champions the several characters he claims to play.

Another is much more measured (Milo Hartill), a voice of reason who can mount a reasoned argument.

And then there is the no-name, timid woman (Holly Austin), readily pushed aside who cowers in fear of Cyrano’s vitriol.

Notably, in Gay’s adaptation of the story, Cyrano is gay, and the climax has been upended.

The play is a brilliant, hilarious farce – bold, energetic and rib-tickling.

There are laughs aplenty, a couple of compelling musical numbers (Hartill is a particularly noteworthy singer and actor) and even a short dance interlude.

So much has been thrown at Cyrano, and it works a treat.

It is so, so clever. The writing is sharp and cutting.

The performances are superb.

Gay acts up a storm. Her immaculate delivery and impeccable comic timing provide a masterclass of showmanship.

Dare I say, she is poetry in motion.

Mind you, she is far from alone in impressing.

The supporting cast don’t miss a beat either.

Tuuli Narkle brings enviable light and shade to Roxanne, while Hartill showcases her all-round vocal skills and acting chops.

Goldsworthy’s hyperbole is a winner, while facial expressions and body movement are two of the keys to Austin’s successful characterisation.

Claude Jabbour skilfully straddles the requirements of a feted Adonis with a decidedly stunted vocabulary. He plays the muscle-bound Yan (drawn from the name Christian).

Set designer Elizabeth Gadsby has made much of a backstage setting brought to the front of house.

Marvellous direction from Sarah Goodes and musical direction from Xani Kolac sees Cyrano emerge as one of MTC’s finest works.

It is well worth rushing to see, for the talent involved is top shelf.

It is playing in Melbourne at Southbank Theatre, The Sumner until 29th October, 2022.

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