Bella Vista Farm, Baulkham Hills, December 15
Independent company Sport for Jove celebrates its fifth year in 2014. In that short time its outdoor Shakespeare productions have become a highlight on the Sydney theatre calendar.
This season alongside Much Ado About Nothing, the company presents a marvellous production of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 French masterpiece Cyrano de Bergerac: an epic five-act romantic comedy full of poetry, passion and humanity.
One of the great love stories, it tells of maverick soldier-poet Cyrano de Bergerac, an uncompromising man full of passion and wit, who runs rings around everyone verbally and is equally adept with a sword.
He falls in love with the beautiful, intellectual Roxane who would have been his were it not for his enormous nose. Instead, he helps Christian – who is handsome but no Einstein – to woo Roxanne with passionate letters. Only on Cyrano’s deathbed does Roxane discover that he has been the love of her life.
Sport for Jove’s artistic director Damien Ryan has written a vibrant adaptation using verse and prose, which is faithful to Rostand’s original but moves the action from 1640s Paris to the Belle Epoque and the start of World War I.
With a keen sense of how to use the outdoor space, Ryan directs a production that is playful and full of verve yet ultimately extremely moving. Barry French’s set makes the most of the lovely surrounds at Bella Vista Farm, using the homestead balcony for the famous wooing scene (Rostand’s nod to Romeo and Juliet) and a shed for the war scenes, which are greatly enhanced by David Stalley’s sound design. The aptly named French also has fun suggesting the French setting with baguettes to the fore in the boulangerie, while Anna Gardiner’s costumes are a delight.
Yalin Ozucelik is outstanding as the swash-buckling Cyrano, capturing his cockiness, volubility and wit as well as his aching heart and self-loathing. At times he is like a verbal tornado. Lizzie Schebesta is a lovely, feisty Roxanne and Scott Sheridan is very funny as Christian – though the scene when he snaps, wanting Roxane to love him for himself rather than the words that Cyrano puts into his mouth is very touching.
The rest of the 16-strong ensemble, who between them play around 50 characters, are uniformly strong.
The production runs three hours but it’s so engaging the time flies. There are few better ways to spend a night under the stars so pack a picnic and treat yourself to one of the best nights of theatre on offer right now.
Cyrano de Bergerac is at Bella Vista Farm, Baulkham Hills until December 30, then Everglades Garden, Leura, January 11 – 26. Bookings: sportforjove.com.au
An edited version of this review ran in the Sunday Telegraph on December 22