Play review by Julia Pattison: Edmond de Bergerac at Grand Opera House, York

Edmond de Bergerac. Photo by Graeme Braidwood.
Edmond de Bergerac. Photo by Graeme Braidwood.

Play: Edmond de Bergerac

Venue: Grand Opera House, York

Review by: Julia Pattison

Ooh la la! What a fabulous piece of fun this production by Birmingham Repertory Company was!

A play about the joy of theatre, it was an absolute joy to sit back and drink in the sumptuous surroundings of the beautiful old Grand Opera House York, which melded so well with Robert Innes Hopkins’s fabulous set design, complemented by lighting (Rick Fisher), music (Dave Price) and sound(Dan Hoole).

It was a real treat too to see such a large cast of 14, all of whom except Freddie Fox playing protagonist Edmond Rostand (the struggling playwright) were also Ensemble and other roles.

What an Ensemble it was too, with marvellous movement (directed by Liam Steel) including a breath-taking scene featuring a ladder, along with strong performances from the principal actors, bringing Alexis Michalik’s play (about how struggling playwright Edmond came to write France’s most successful play of all time, Cyrano de Bergerac) sensationally to life before our eyes.

Translated by Jeremy Sams and wonderfully directed by Roxana Silbert, this play set off at a sedate pace then ended up as a gallop as we followed Edmond’s dizzy dealings with threatened failure (Freddie Fox was outstanding as foppish Edmond whom we took to our hearts) and shared his delight and utter relief when inspiration, then success, finally came.

Robin Morrissey was splendid in his role of Edmond’s handsome but dim best friend Leo and Gina Bramhill was charming in her role of Jeanne, who became Edmond’s muse and source of inspiration.

Josie Lawrence multi-roled with panache, as did Simon Gregor; his performance as receptionist was absolutely hilarious and one of many highlights in the play.

There were constant laughs as we watched this pacey play within a play, with Chizzy Akudolu coming into her own as faded star Maria at the frantic finale scene.

Henry Goodman, (playing celebrated actor Constant Coquelin who, threatened by heavies, had convinced Edmond that he could write him the hit the actor so desperately needed) was superb in his role; his tragic Cyrano farewell was a masterpiece, touching your heart with its poignancy.