Cyrano story gets a musical makeover

Peter Dinklage stars in revival set in an unnamed Napoleonic city

Friday, 25th February — By Dan Carrier


Peter Dinklage in Cyrano

Directed by Joe Wright
Certificate: 12A

FROM Gérard Depardieu’s 1990 near-perfect turn as the poetical swordsman to Steve Martin’s charming and funny Roxanne, Cyrano de Bergerac is such a brilliant story, it feels like when each new generation comes to it, it’s pretty hard to fail.

It means in this latest version, director Joe Wright had some pointers, but the simple fact is the original, core yarn offers every new imagining of this tragedy a firm foundation to create something really wonderful.

Wright has bundles of charm when required and sets a scene like an Old Master. It means this version, set in an unnamed Napoleonic city, feels the perfect fit for a filmmaker whose credits include Atonement, Anna Karenina and Pride and Prejudice.

Cyrano (Peter Dinklage) possesses the most charming mind in the city, and the quickest sword, too. But he lacks one thing – courage in the conviction of his love. Standing about three foot in his boots, Cyrano believes his small stature precludes him being taken seriously by the woman (Haley Bennett) of his dreams.

And when handsome stranger Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jnr) enlists in Cyrano’s guards unit, and professes his love for Cyrano’s beau – and in return, Roxanne confides her own feelings – Cyrano is caught between telling the object of his affection the truth of his passions, or simply pouring them out via letters he writes for his friend and rival.

Wright brings a zingy script with resonating turns from the leads and a supporting cast that lays a constantly intriguing and quirky backdrop.

On top of the verbal back and forth, which mimics accompanying sword play, Wright has made this a musical. While the songs on first listen do not immediately become an ear worm, the routines are wittily performed.

But it isn’t just the plot and the first-class acting that brings this alive.

Wright’s vibrant production values make the tale skip from scene to scene. The first time we meet the hoity Duke De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), his grimacing, powdered face and that of his ridiculous companion are gargoyle-like. It sets a tone that never lets up.

One final aside: Joe Wright’s family established the Little Angel Puppet Theatre, off Upper Street. Look out for the homage to this marvellous world of wondrous make believe in the opening scene.

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