Reviewed by Tatum Stafford
Before its arrival on our side of the country, Virginia Gay’s take on Cyrano carried a lot of buzz with it. I distinctly remember reading reviews of its 2021/2 Melbourne Theatre Company production that hailed it as “a love letter to theatre”, and so when we were ushered into the theatre for its Perth opening night, expectations and hopes were high.
From its opening scene (in which the theatre ushers physically covered the mandatory emergency exit signs with paddles to thrust the room into complete pitch black), it was clear we were in for a unique and special piece of theatre.
The premise of the show closely follows the well-trodden Cyrano story: a man named Cyrano de Bergerac is renowned for his way with words but is somewhat ashamed of his appearance. When he falls for the beautiful and intelligent Roxanne, but she desires the beautiful yet dim-witted Christian, Christian utilises Cyrano’s witty wordplay to impress and woo Roxanne.
In Gay’s version, she takes centre stage as a female-presenting Cyrano; with words as her weapons and her infatuation for Roxane always at the front of her mind. Christian is humorously shortened to ‘Yan’ in an effort to stand out from the pack, and the cast is completed by a trio of ‘muses’, aptly dubbed ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’, who provided plenty of comic relief, intelligent commentary, and even a song or two.
Gay’s writing is incredibly witty and refreshingly relevant. The jam-packed, one-act script is filled with timely references, evocative imagery, and a gorgeous balance of humour and honesty which had the audience enthralled. Her acting is similarly captivating, and her clear rapport with both the audience and the story was a real joy to watch.
There were fantastic performances all-round within the cast, including sincere and heartfelt work from Tuuli Narkle as Roxanne, plenty of bravado and smart comic timing from Joel Jackson as Yan, and beautiful chemistry and scenework from the trio of Holly Austin, Zenya Carmellotti, and Robin Goldsworthy. A particular shout-out to Carmellotti’s gorgeous voice which shone in both her solo singing moment and the chorus number towards the start of the show.
Elizabeth Gadsby’s set design does a marvellous job at enveloping the audience into the world of the play, and the world in which these characters interact, adapt, and fall in love. Without giving too much away, the explosion of colour in the final scene is well worth the wait.
Direction from Sarah Goodes is absolutely beautiful; as is the musical direction and additional compositions from Xani Kolac. Lighting by Paul Jackson and sound by Kelly Ryall create a stunning mood throughout the theatre. It’s clear that the team behind the scenes are just as cohesive and masterful as those performing on stage every night.
All in all, this is a beautifully warm story about love – for others, for yourself, for your circumstances. After such a tumultuous few years, particularly within the arts industry, it’s incredibly comforting to see works like this one live in a theatre, so I’d urge you to snap up a ticket and let these storytellers weave their magic.
Image Credit: Daniel L Grant