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It’s fairly telling that the Canberra Theatre Centre’s June blockbuster show, Cyrano de Bergerac, is the play credited with bringing the word ‘panache’ into the English language.
Indeed, this isn’t a classic tale of romance with blushes and shy smiles. This is a brash tale of love that defies boundaries and social confines, kind of like a seventeenth-century version of Baz Lurhmann’s Moulin Rouge; love, with all the dramatic trimmings.
“It was written in 1897, when naturalism – Ibsen and Zola – was popular in Europe. Playwright Edmond Rostand was a bit sick of this so he wanted to write a play that was very extravagant in terms of costumes and comedy with an epic storyline,” explains actress Lizzie Schebesta.
Lizzie would know all about the extravagance of Cyrano – she’s set to play love the eponymous hero’s love interest Roxane when Sport for Jove Theatre Co brings the play to Canberra Theatre Centre later this month.
Hilarious and full of swashbuckling bravado, Cyrano revolves around a love triangle that sees not one but two Romeos standing below Roxane’s balcony in an epic saga that’s as much a battle of wits as it is a battle of swords.
“It has a largeness in its storyline that’s a joy to witness and be a part of,” Lizzie explains. This may have something to do with the fact that the titular character’s main roadblock in expressing his love for Roxane is his overly large nose, but Lizzie adds that that Cyrano isn’t all slapstick and giggles.
“We still capture the flamboyance, however [Director Damien Ryan] didn’t want it to be cartoonish. There’s still a lot of drama there – it’s very much in line for what Sport for Jove is known for – epic, passionate storytelling.”
Lizzie explains that this has been achieved by Damien by replacing the play’s traditional setting of Paris in the year 1640 with a “fusion” of Belle Époque Paris and World War I, thus adding both a modern edge to military scenes and allowing the company to indulge in “the lush exuberance” of turn of the century costuming and sets.
“It’s a challenge to balance the drama, the comedy and the romance,” says Lizzie. “It’s a play that has everything in it and it really takes you on a rollercoaster as both an actor and an audience member.”
Perhaps the perfect armchair (or should we say theatre seat?) winter getaway, Cyrano will be transporting Canberrans to Paris from 28 June.
What: Sport for Jove’s Cyrano de Bergerac
When: 28 June – 1 July 2017
Where: The Playhouse Theatre, Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic
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Images by Philip Erbacher