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Chris Ryan and Richard Roxburgh. All images: Brett Boardman.

THEATRE: 19 NOVEMBER 2014

By SANDRA BOWDEN

Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmund Rostand, adapted by Andrew Upton from a translation by Marion Potts | Directed by Andrew Upton

Sydney Theatre Company | Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney | Until 20 December

Reimagining as well known a piece as Cyrano de Bergerac takes some measure of bravery. It’s having its third run for Sydney Theatre Company since 1980, and there will be enough Boomers in particular who will have seen the previous two.

Add in various film adaptations and there would be few patrons who don’t have some knowledge of Edmond Rostand’s tale, and therefore some expectations of what they will be seeing.

Andrew Upton’s current adaptation won’t disappoint those who come expecting the traditional story of doomed love, nor others who are curious for a fresh take. Upton has created a lovely balance of rip-roaring, humourous, swashbuckle romance and despair — delivered with panache, of course.

Roxburgh’s Cyrano plays more to the tragic, with moments of palpable anguish and longing — although the opening scenes of witty wordplay, flashy fencing and swagger remain. As I suspected, however, there is no prosthetic nose big and lumpy enough to truly disguise Roxburgh’s charm.

Eryn Jean Norvill plays Roxanne with the same intelligence and strength seen in her excellent 2013 portrayal of Juliet.

Chris Ryan, fresh from the marvellous Children of the Sun, is an immensely likeable Christian, painfully aware of how intellectually out of his depth he is with the beautiful and clever Roxanne. I hope he soon returns to roles that allow him to stay alive for the whole production.

An almost unrecognisable Josh McConville as de Guiche gets the opportunity to exercise his comedic talent, while Julia Zemiro in the dual roles of Duenne and Sister Claire proves we should be seeing more of her on stage.

An excellent ensemble cast, returned to a larger troupe from the trimmed 13 of 1999, allows the battle scenes and earlier interactions greater movement and depth.

Alice Babidge’s set design reflects the toll of Cyrano’s sacrifice on his spirit. A gaudy and mobile proscenium arch in the opening Acts, later reversed, finally the stage lays bare.

I admit — and I doubt I’d be alone here — that the first minutes of Cyrano de Bergerac are spent in anticipation of Roxburgh’s appearance, curious as to how realistically his features are altered by The Nose. After the reveal, within seconds, the quality and poetry of this production is what matters: a fine finale to another outstanding year for Sydney Theatre Company.

Yalin Ozucelik.

Eryn Jean Norvill.

Richard Roxburgh.

Eryn Jean Norvill and Josh McConville.