Cyrano | Rehearsal Diary - Week 1

23 Sep 2019

Assistant Director Jess Clough-MacRae describes the passionate and joyful moments of the first week of Cyrano rehearsals.

Cyrano is a recent translation of the famous French play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Many people know of it as ‘the one about the guy with the big nose’. Before we started this process, that’s how I thought of it. I’d been told by a French friend that it was the most beautiful play ever written. I couldn’t quite imagine where the giant nose fitted into that.

Hearing Peter Oswald’s translation clears that up for me. Peter has been lovingly faithful to the original, which is written in verse – a form we might often associate with ‘high-brow, old-fashioned’ theatre. However, Peter’s script is anything but high-brow or old-fashioned. It is a faithfully poetic, daringly modern, hilarious romantic tragedy. And the nose? Something we can all relate to.

The first day starts with a meet and greet, where the cast and creative team are introduced to each other and everyone else who works in the theatre. They are familiarised with the space, talked through the wonderful set, designed by Ti Green, and prepared for their first read through as a full company. By the end of the read through there is not a dry eye in the house.

For such a big play, our rehearsal period is relatively short. Some directors would choose to spend the first week of rehearsal sat round a table, picking through the text. However, Peter’s translation is too lively to stay on the page. There are a lot of characters, all to be played by our cast of seven, so by the second day the director Tom Morris, has the cast up and putting the first scenes on their feet. The first act is chaotic, with actors practically chasing themselves off the stage in multiple roles, so finding those quick changes and the comedy within that is crucial, and a lot of fun.

Music is going to play a big part in this production. An epic romance demands an epic score, and composer Adrian Sutton is more than up to the job. He comes armed with compositions which tiptoe and swell. They are unashamedly romantic, and I find myself welling up again.

The cast and creative team throw themselves into the first week with the passionate, playful joy demanded by Peters text. By Friday we have staged Act 1 and a big chunk of Act 2 which feels like a big achievement. It feels like we’ve found the physical and musical language of the play, which is an excellent start. We have a lot to achieve in the next few weeks, but with such a strong, generous and creative company I am filled with optimism and excitement. Bring on week two!

Cyrano opens at Bristol Old Vic on 12 Oct and runs til 16 Nov. For more information and to book tickets, click here.