(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/8.)
Edmond Rostand’s 19th-century extravaganza is normally the province of national companies with a star actor. Lorne Campbell’s version, jointly produced by Newcastle’s Northern Stage and this lively Northampton venue, is necessarily a stripped-down affair. Using five main actors and a six-strong ensemble made up of emerging performers, it may lack epic flourish, but it is a highly intelligent version that shows why we still love this old play.
Campbell and his designer, Jean Chan, set the action in a cluttered gym filled with vaulting horses, climbing frames and mattresses. The impression that we might be watching a joint staff-and-pupils venture is reinforced by the way Nigel Barrett as the senior figure periodically blows a whistle to gather the ensemble, clad in fencing gear, and dons Cyrano’s nasal protuberance himself. Given the leaping verse of Anthony Burgess’s vivacious translation, more use might have been made of the vaulting equipment, but the set proves perfectly practical and by the end, as we become immersed in Cyrano’s heroic self-sacrifice, we have almost forgotten the concept.