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The reviewers buckled their swashes and came out in force for Cyrano. Reviews appeared in the Oxford Times, Daily Info, Oxford Prospect, Theatreworld Internet Magazine and The Public Reviews.

A gallery of images from the production is available to view.

OXFORD TIMES - Giles Woodforde

Famed for his enormous nose and lashings of panache, swashbuckling hero Cyrano de Bergerac has been played by many famous actors down through the years – Derek Jacobi, Ralph Richardson, and Gérard Depardieu among them.

But beneath Cyrano's swaggering exterior, self-doubt lurks: could any girl ever love That Nose? Cyrano's beautiful distant cousin Roxane, for instance?

Latest to tackle the iconic role of Cyrano is Rupert Winter in Oxford Theatre Guild's new production at The Playhouse.

Possessor of a beak-like, signal-red protuberance, Winter's Cyrano at first exudes an air of quiet menace but it's soon clear that he has quite a temper too. The swashbuckling side of his nature isn't revealed until he gets into a duel. He wields his sword with a swagger, and in perfect time to a piece of backing music – this is one of a number of imaginative touches from director Sue Baxter, and fight director Tim Klotz.

Katie Collier's regal Roxane rides over idle town gossip about her matrimonial prospects (crowd scenes and cameo roles are vibrantly acted throughout), and marries Sam Elwin's somewhat dim, but endearingly modest Christian.

"I am a non-entity cursed with a pretty face," he says sadly as he dies in battle, thus eventually allowing Cyrano to declare his love for Roxane in the movingly-played final scene.

Under-projected at times on opening night, I suspect this will develop into a fine production.



The Oxford Theatre Guild's version of Cyrano de Bergerac was an enthusiastic delivery of a classic play. The story of Cyrano, a poet and swordsman with a massive nose who writes letters to his friend's sweetheart on the friend's behalf because he thinks he'll never be worthy of her love, is a classic tale, still relevant and moving today. 

The ensemble scenes were the highlight of the show, nicely managed and with some vibrant and engaging performances from the smaller parts (James Webster and Pypa Wait were especially good, with Pypa delivering a hilarious but all too brief Sister Marthe). The costume and set were excellent, and I liked the use of the various spaces on stage and in the audience. In the balcony scene, Rupert Winter as Cyrano and Katie Collier as Roxane worked up some real chemistry, and delivered a charming performance.

I feel, however, this wasn't the best translation of the play – at times the script felt very stilted Cyrano, meant to be so quick and sharp, was given a variety of clunky lines, which made the characterization feel inconsistent. Pacing was also a bit patchy throughout, and the first half in particular felt far too log.

The play also felt like the wrong use of the company – this talent and sense of fun of the group shone through, but most of the actors were given very little to do. I'd love to see the Oxford Theatre Guild putting on a big, silly ensemble farce instead.



A comedy of unashamed romanticism, set in the time of Louis XIV, the play is also full of laughs with comic characters including the master-pastrycook Raguenau, representing French culture at its highest. Assignations, rivalries and misunderstandings abound. The sword-fights and battle-scenes are convincingly choreographed and it was a good choice to use Carmina Burana as the background music when Cyrano faces eight opponents in combat and vanquishes them all. Winter's performance is energetic, versatile and suitably extravagant for this over-the top hero. I wonder if a slightly less ludicrous false nose would have been sufficient to make the point.

Roxane, the beautiful cousin whom Cyrano secretly and hopelessly loves, is played by the lovely Katie Collier, who trained at Manchester Metroplitian School of theatre. She has a very melodious voice and I look forward to seeing her future performances. Sam Elwin as the handsome young Baron Christian is very funny in the balcony scene, where Cyrano in the dark tells him what to say to capture the heart of his beloved. Nothing less than a stream of poetic eloquence will win Roxane's love and only Cyrano can provide it…

Believe it or not, Cyrano was a real person and he really did most of these things. "I want to die with honourable steel piercing my heart and an epigram on my lips…" There can be few heroes in history who measure up to these dizzy heights, although one name that springs to my mind is Paddy Leigh Fermor.

There has been no expense spared for scenery and costumes to make this production as visually pleasing as it is energetic and exciting. Edmond Rostand's text has been translated by Anthony Burgess and he does a good job with the wit and the soppiness. One little suggestion - the actors should try to pronounce the first syllable of Bergerac more like Bear and less like Burger.



Everyone thinks they know the story of Cyrano de Bergerac (Rupert Winter) – the Poet / Swordsman with the huge nose who helps a friend to win the hand of the fair Roxanne (Katie Collier). However, the Oxford Theatre Guild successfully brings out the complexities of this play written in the late 19th century and set in the mid 1600s. It oscillates between large ensemble scenes and small intimate moments; comedy throughout and the tragedy of the battlefield; calmness at the convent and chaos at the market. And the language is not only beautiful and poetic but at times earthy and base.

Cyrano himself is also a paradox, gregarious and outgoing (taking on a hundred men with his sword) but at the same time isolated by his own self-consciousness of his enormous protuberance – his 'Punchinello sized strawberry nose'! He can only express his passion for his cousin Roxanne in his poems and writings which she believes to be from Christian (Sam Elwin) the object of her desires in a classic love triangle

Much of the initial action takes place in the aisles and amongst the audience with the lights fully on – something I found a little disconcerting initially until it dawned on me that it was deliberate, and a way of involving us from the outset

The rhyming verse in which the whole play is conducted (Monfleury, the Balloon, Baboon, Buffoon) (wedding a slug to a rhinocerous would make the sublime ridiculous) is a masterpiece but must have been a challenge for Anthony Burgess to translate and even more of a nightmare for the cast to learn!?

Gascony pride and cameraderie is very well shown by the singing and banter of the band of soldiers. Fiercely proud of their bond and even when exhausted and hungry at the battle of Arras they still play tricks on each other

'Love is giving someone the power to destroy you and trust them enough not to', I found to be the most profound line in the play. It turns out to be founded on truth but a truth tragically only uncovered at the very end of the play when it is too late for Roxanne to prove it - poor Cyrano…. still, at least his life was consistent – he missed everything!!!

There are by turns, funny, and truly moving moments and whilst the cast is large and very talented (especially for an amateur ensemble) they serve as a foil for the main characters who feed from them, and who in the process give so much that their exhaustion at a job well done, at the end of the play, is palpable.



A bustling city of soldiers and drunkards, ladies and actresses, nuns and whores, pickpockets and noblemen … and a poet. As the houselights (very slowly) dim and the large cast take their places on the stage of the Oxford Playhouse it becomes abundantly clear that this production is not short of ambition. By the end of the first act the audience has been treated to several large scale swordfights and more rousing word play than one could shake a stick at.

The story is of a young man, Cyrano, with an extraordinarily large nose but blessed with wonderful fighting skills and the ability to conjure up beautiful poetry out of nothing. He falls in love with the beautiful Roxane who dutifully falls in love with the stunningly handsome Christian. He of course has no wit and is therefore unable to woo his beloved. With the help of Cyrano, dictating poetry to him he hopes to win his lady's heart and hand in marriage.

As can be expected with a large amateur cast some performances are more successful than others but on the whole the quality of the acting is good. Rupert Winter in the title role gives a great performance and is easily the most accomplished actor on the stage. He lives and breathes the role of the tortured poet superbly ranging from arrogant cockiness to bereft self-pitying loneliness with ease. Sam Elwin certainly has the good looks required of Christian and his wooing scene is played with just the right amount of pathos and humour. If he feels a little unsure of himself when mocking Cyrano in the opening scene he more than makes up for it as the play goes on. There are some well performed smaller roles as well which deserve mentioning. Simon Vail gives a delightful performance as the cook-cum-poet Ragueneau. Bob Booth's fleeting cameo as Montfleury is a comic highlight of the evening.

Anthony Burgess' translation of Edmond Rostand's script is ultimately the star of this show. The witty retorts, put downs and one liners are often brilliant and they are executed with varying success by the enthusiastic cast. This production is at its best when the wonderful dialogue is given the opportunity to speak for itself. The final, touching scene is beautifully crafted and serves as a poignant reminder that love doesn't always conquer all.

At times the production does suffer from some severe pacing problems and at 100 minutes the first half is far too long. This could have been significantly reduced with faster scene changes and a less indulgent opening which takes a good ten minutes to really get going. There is a languid quality to this production which works well in some of the more brazen passages however the sense of ennui becomes tiring as the evening progresses. The second half does pick up as we are transported to the siege of Arras; however there is a little overzealousness with a smoke machine meaning that much of the action is obscured. This is a very challenging play and the Oxford Theatre Guild should be commended for tackling it and doing so mostly successfully. This is an amateur group with big ambitions and that coupled with a lot of enthusiasm and a few notable performances means they deserve a big audience. There is enough witty repartee and swordplay mixed in with plenty of good old fashioned romance to keep most patrons happy- if they can cross the legs until the interval.


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