To see yourself through the eyes of a lover might be the most beautiful and affirming reflection you can ever see of yourself. Especially as it often contradicts our self images, which can be full of doubt, fault and “why would anyone want to love this”.
Perhaps Edmond Rostand wasn’t thinking that when he wrote Cyrano de Bergerac in 1897, but it’s what I left the MTC’s production of Virgina Gay’s Cyrano thinking about.
Gay is still known for being on a tv series but consistently shines every time she’s on a stage. She plays Cyrano and wrote the script.
Cyrano’s story is possibly best known because of film adaptions. There’s a dude with a big nose who’s in love with a hot woman called Roxanne. Because his schnozz is big, he’s unlovable. So, he gives a hot guy the right words to say to the woman.
There’s too much to discuss about why men think they deserve woman, about agency and why we tell these stories. But it was a joy to see this stale old story on a mainstage being told as a queer story with a goal of not telling another boring story because it’s labelled as “art”.
As expected with a first significant pieces of writing, there are forced metaphors the meta references can be obvious. But even its overcooked moments – so many food metaphors, or maybe similes – are part of a celebration and streamer-throwing party of being back in theatres to tell stories. And Sarah Goodes’s direction never lets the audience-performer in-jokes get too out of hand.
A chorus of three (Holly Austin, Robin Goldsworthy and Milo Hartill) watch, discuss and advise Cyrano about her love for Roxanne (Tuuli Narkle), who fancies Yan (Claude Jabbour), the new spunk in town.
At first, it felt like it was queering up the story with a gender reversal and some good-bad jokes, but trust Virginia Gay because Cyrano’s complexity develops as it questions as much as it celebrates.
It’s a story of love, heartbreak, self-doubt, hot sex, false expectations, making the wrong choices, and trying to make right ones.
We make theatre to tell stories and share experiences. We go to know that we’re not the only people who do stupid things, and to see ourselves in stories.
During Cyrano, I wasn’t thinking about the 1897 script. I spent a lot of the story running through a cycle of understanding, hating and forgiving an ex-lover; I’m not sure where I ended up. It wasn’t my story on the stage, but it was a story full of emotion that was so recognisable that I was caring about that stale old story as much as my own.
I still don’t know how to recover from heartbreak and would love the hope of an ending written by Virginia Gay, but I left Cyrano remembering that sometimes we all need to reject those negative reflections we have of ourselves and of what we deserve and to replace them with the reflections of people who love us.
Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Performance: Saturday 8 October 2022 – 2.00pm
Season continues to 29 October 2022
Information and Bookings: www.mtc.com.au
Image: Tuuli Narkle and Virginia Gay in Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Cyrano – photo © Jeff Busby
Review: Anne-Marie Peard