Have you ever used the word ‘panache’?
If so, you will be quoting from the play Cyrano de Bergerac by French dramatist Edmond Rostland, which popularised the expression among English speakers.
First produced in 1897, to widespread critical acclaim, the story of a brilliant poet and dashing musketeer held back from claiming the love of his life by the size of his nose has been widely adapted and seen in many forms. Both Steve Martin (in Roxanne) and Gerard Depardieu have taken the role of Cyrano in film versions.
And now, Huddersfield-born writer Deborah McAndrew, former Coronation Street star, has joined the long list of those who have re-worked the original for contemporary audiences.
It has been, she says, “an absolute labour of love”, although one that has made huge demands on her talents as a playwright. Rostland wrote Cyrano in rhyming couplets and it had an enormous cast of 40 or so actors. Deborah has used a mixture of prose and verse to re-tell the famous tale of a man afraid of rejection, who woos his love, Roxane, through the mouth of another. And she’s had to trim the cast down to a more realistic and affordable 13 actors, as well as dispense with, among other things, a battle scene. Adaptations, she says, are about addressing a lot of practical considerations before tackling the actual story or characters.
Deborah, who played Angie Freeman in Corrie for three years but went on to write several original plays as well as adaptations, describes Cyrano as a work of “swashbuckling, high comedy, farce, tragedy, sex and love” and says she thoroughly enjoyed exploring the characters and retaining the “heightened language”.
The results of her labour of love – directed by her husband Conrad Nelson (of Northern Broadsides fame) – can be seen at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds from Tuesday, February 28, until Saturday, March 4, and then again at the Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough, Halifax, from May 9 to 13.
A collaboration between Northern Broadsides and the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, the production is on a nationwide tour until early summer.