Coming to the end of its run in this charmingly quirky fringe theatre, an all-female version of the classic Edmond Rostand play (adapted by Glyn Maxwell) is not without interest.
What makes it special is the casting of that little powerhouse, Kathryn Hunter, in the title role. I’ve seen her play Lear before, and Mother Courage, and she never disappoints, her tiny frame bristling with physicality, and her quavering voice pulsating with poetry. She is worth the entry price alone – although I also enjoyed the quiet bravado of Ellie Kendrick as Christian, and Tamzin Griffin is a swashbuckling Duc de Guiche, while Sabrina Bartlett is sweet as Roxanne.
While some of the fight scenes lacked bite (the hundred men Cyrano dispatches in Act One), the quieter scenes are quite special – that balcony scene, where Cyrano, eyes full of love, feeds Christian lines which speak directly to his cousin, who only sees him as a relation with bravado; the end sequence, where Roxanne clocks that the letter writer was not the pretty boy she has mourned for years.
The scene where Cyrano goads the Duc about finding the words to describe his comically large nose, however, worked better with the Anthony Burgess translation in the 1990 film. Maxwell’s version lacks that finesse, and, to quote Cyrano himself, panache.