THEATRE REVIEW: Cyrano De Bergerac

Reviews, Theatre

The Jamie Lloyd Theatre company production of Cyrano De Bergerac has just finished in the West End but it is going to New York soon. I saw the play for the dress rehearsal when the company were doing a pay-as-much-as-you-can showing as part of their ‘theatre is for all’ campaign. As a student it can be difficult to afford theatre and I think it’s such a great idea to get more young people or people who can’t afford it to go and see a play. Often theatre is regarded as this portentous thing for the wealthy so I think it is so great that the company are trying to make it as accessible as possible.

The play Cyrano De Bergerac follows ‘Cyrano, a talented 17th-century playwright [and soldier] who pursues a woman named Roxane. While he may seem to have a glittering career, his outlook on life is plagued by narcissistic views around him, as Cyrano uses language in order to allure his lover.’ It’s a heartbreaking love story focusing on Cyrano, Roxane and Christian (a new fellow soldier who is more physically attractive than Cyrano but does not have his mind for words and language).

The play itself completely blew me away – I knew it was gong to be a reboot of the classic play (written by Edmund Rostand in 1897) with a modern spin and probably quite paired back as it was directed by Jamie Lloyd. But it completely brought the story into the modern day – making the poetry seem more like rap, giving poetry this ‘cool’ spin and injecting some youth back into it.

The staging was paired back, just concrete walls and floor laid bare except from a few microphones and stands and some stairs when it came to the battle scene. The microphones on stage really emphasised the themes of the importance of having a voice and the power of the spoken word. To me the play really encapsulated the phrase-

“The pen is mightier than the sword” – that words can wield just as much, if not more, power and importance.

This is a message really relevant today, in our world of questioning authority- asking the questions of who should have power and why. And showing the importance of welding the power of words whilst also being wary of them as they may not be the speakers own.

James McAvoy plays the titular role of Cyrano. They have chosen to have this character without the traditional over the top large nose, choosing instead to draw attention to the other more important themes in the play; from unrequited love, to vanity, to what manliness looks like, to the power that words can wield.

The character of Roxane, played by Anita-joy Uwajeh, is given a modern day reboot as well giving her much more prominence and a voice in the play. Roxane is Cyrano’s love interest in the play, but this adaptation makes her less passive.

Overall, this play was breathtaking, completely transforming a classic into the modern day reminding us of how important words are. All performances by the actors were phenomenal, using staging like above to emphasise some of the plays most important themes. If you are heading to New York, or live there, and looking for something to see I would really recommend checking this play out – it will blow you away.

THEATRE REVIEW: The Lehman Trilogy

Reviews, Theatre
At the Piccadilly theatre

I saw The Lehman trilogy last summer in London but today it opens in New York on Broadway. It is such an incredibly directed and performed play that I had to write something about it – so any readers in New York or planning to visit soon this is for you.

The play tells the history of the Lehman brothers who changed the world of capitalism, it is a 163 year saga beginning with the story of a young man in Bavaria dreaming of a new life then following the founding of a financial company as it encounters success for over a century and a half until it spectacularly evaporates in the 2008 global economic crisis (playbill).

The play, by Stefano Massini and adapted by Ben power, is directed by Sam Mendes (1917, Spectre, American Beauty etc). Mendes’ approach is fairly paired back, choosing to cast just three actors to represent the titular roles. There is no fuss, just three actors, glass walls, a few boxes and tables and chairs creating an incredibly intimate tone as the audience peer in at the making and breaking of a family. The actors often don’t change costume either showing three men ageing, new generations emerging and the world around them rapidly changing.

“The Lehman Trilogy” directed by Sam Mendes, at the Park Avenue Armory, during a dress rehearsal, on March 21, 2019. North American Premiere by Stefano Massini Sam Mendes, Director Es Devlin, Set Designer Katrina Lindsay, Costume Designer Luke Halls, Video Designer Jon Clark, Lighting Designer Starring Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley, and Ben Miles .

It is performed by three actors: Simon Russell Beale (The Hollow Crown etc), Adam Godley and Ben Miles who each play one of the Lehman brothers and various other characters throughout. I know that sounds a little strange and I thought it would be difficult to really get into the story if the actors are constantly changing characters but it didn’t feel awkward or confusing at all. Simon Russell Beale was particularly fantastic in it, putting on different voices and completely changing his posture and his mannerisms, physically embodying each character as he shifted through them. It also allowed for some comic moments when an actor acted out a character that you didn’t expect them too – you may notice that there are no female actors but women were not absent from their story.

The set was also ingenious, having a rotating glass box on set which contained three rooms – each containing either cardboard boxes or tables. There seemed to be a theme of threes in this play – 3 actors, 3 brothers, 3 rooms, 3 acts, a trilogy. It was also three hours long.

The length was of some concern to my sister, who did not find the play as enjoyable as I did. There are two intervals but the length can mean that you have to be prepared as an audience member to focus for three hours. The play consists of a lot of dialogue so you need to listen to understand the plot which I know some people are not fans of for such a long period of time – it’s the same reason that a lot of people are put off of watching Hamlet.

Overall, to quote The Times this play really does show ‘Theatre at its best’. Mendes paired back approach, combined with a compelling and complex story and incredible acting by all three actors makes this a really enjoyable, thought provoking theatre-going experience.