Saturday, May 16, 2009


Festival Theatre Chichester


This is the play that gave the word “panache” to English. Anthony Burgess's three hour version starts, like Rostand's, with a knowing street-theatre scene and an audience on three sides.

Trevor Nunn's sprawling production for the Chichester thrust makes the most of this, the pastry-cook's emporium, and of course the barricades and the siege of Arras.

The verse translation was well served by the vast cast, [forty strong, I'd guess], not least Joseph Fiennes in the title role, who must have found in the wit and word play echoes of his other script-writers, Shakespeare and Stoppard. Though he is an impressive swordsman, he is especially good as the philosopher poet, “almost brother” to his Roxane, Alice Eve, nostalgically evoking their shared childhood.

This great play poses questions still relevant today. “Your lips, my soul” - Christian's body [Stephen Hagan], Cyrano's words. Must the bright also be beautiful ? Do only the brave deserve the fair ?

No tour, no transfer, apparently, for this wonderful revival, despite the critics' plaudits. You've till May 30 to catch it in Chichester. 

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