A review of James McAvoy’s last theatrical play, Cyrano de Bergerac: a work that inspires (and was inspired by) love… for several reasons.
This story starts on a cold evening in Dublin in 2007 (…bear with me, I promise I will get to the point).
As head girl at my school, I persuaded my class to choose Dublin as destination for our school trip since I had a huge crush on Colin Farrell. Logic and necessary – as if Colin Farrell has nothing better to do than randomly walking around Dublin.
One evening, we decided to go to the cinema where, too embarrassed to ask the waiter to repeat his question for the fourth time, I said yes to whatever he was asking and had to eat popcorns with melted butter on top. Not a fan. The toss was between 300 and an unknown movie about the life of Jane Austen. My English teacher of course made us watch the latter.
That day, I fell in love with James McAvoy (move aside, Colin!). That day I became his loyal fan. That day I promised myself I wouldn’t set for anything less than a “Jane, I’m yours heart and soul”. That day I set my standard far too high, where it still lays. And I blame Mr McAvoy.
If you haven’t watched Becoming Jane: big mistake, huge! Please pause the reading and watch it now. Disclaimer: make sure to have plenty of comfort food and tissues at the ready!
The stars were aligned when I found out that James was coming to the Venice Film Festival that September of 2007 for the premiere of the movie Atonment. It was my chance to see the man in the flash! I camped outside the red carpet of Sala Grande since 7am in the morning without ever leaving my position like a good soldier would do (I was 16, could never do it again, not even for James: I’m too old).
And then he arrived. Very few people knew him (mostly me and my classmates!) as everyone was focused on Keira Knightley at the peak of her career. I literally realised she was there when she was in front of me (Keira move, you’re blocking my view!). And James came, charming and lovely (he is a Scotsman after all), signing autographs for everyone. He signed mine as well, but I was greedy: I needed a picture with him.
Now, keep in mind, this is 2007: when selfies hadn’t been invented and 99% of mobile phones didn’t even have a second camera. Facebook wasn’t yet that popular and people were still basing their romances on matching mobile operators to save on texting costs.
But I guess I had a glimpse into the future and wanted, needed a picture. James was already walking away from us, already climbing the three steps that separate the arrival to the photographers area. But if there’s one thing I can do is scream. Loudly. And so I screamed my lungs out “James, Jameeeeeeees”.
He turned, saw me, thought I was about to have a stroke (imagine the veins pumping on my face, the red rapidly turning to blue as the air leaves my body to scream even louder). He came back. For me (listen, this is my version of the story all right? Let me dream a little). We took the picture. With a camera. An actual one. I hugged him, cheek to cheek and I remember thinking in that moment “Boy, this suit is expensive”. Of all the thoughts I could have formulated in my mind… He left, not before checking if the picture was actually there, if we were both in it (used to be an issue with “selfies” back in the days you know). A class man. And a stunning and massively underrated actor!
My love for him only grew watching Atonment. You should watch it too. It’s one of those films that breaks your soul in deep places you didn’t know you had. To this day, I could only ever watch that film once. It’s too painful for me, but a must watch. James wandering around the beach of Dunkirk one of the most piercing scenes in the history of cinematography (you should read the book by Ian McEwan too!)
My love and admiration for this wonderful actor have never faded. And I patiently wait for the day he will get his Oscar. So of course when I heard he was on stage for a play in London, I bought the ticket for the second day of the show. I didn’t need to know what the play was about. James is one of those actors that could seat on a chair turning oxigen in dioxide and I would be moved to tears.
But since you have read so far to get a review of the play, here you go!
(How kind of you to bear with me until now! If, instead, you just scrolled down to this point, well, I get you so no hard feelings)
“Cyrano De Bergerac” at the Playhouse Theatre is a mesmerising, unique play that will simply blow your mind. I’m usually not a fan of modern rendition of classic plays, so I did buy the ticket because of the main actor on stage, James McAvoy. But even if he wasn’t portraying the leading character, the play is worth watching!
The director of the play is Jamie Lloyd and the adaptation of the 1897 Edmond Rostand’s play is by Martin Crimp.
I wasn’t actually too familiar with the original story, but it’s easy to follow: Cyrano is a noble, articulated, passionate man with the gift of poetry and the love for words. He is in love with the beautiful Roxane (Anita-Joy Uwajeh), but feels she will never love him as he has an enormous nose. Roxane falls for the good looking Christian (Eben Figueiredo), an almost illiterate soldier, who partners with Cyrano to win Roxane over: a partnership between looks and brains.
The beginning of the play can feel quite overwhelming for someone like me who prefers in costumes’ productions, but you are quickly captured by the geniality of it all. The sharp, quick, witty rapped rhymes and beatboxing (yes. That’s what I said!) are mesmerising, making the story of Cyrano a contemporary tale of friend-zone and of loving without prejudices. The message shoot at you in different rhyming London slangs is that it takes courage to love and you should be brave as well as being yourself: it always pays off.
The minimalist design and the use of the space is absolutely brilliant and so well thought! Every character dances around the stage with purpose and meaning in an articulated choreography that yet looks natural. Anita-Joy Uwajeh’s Roxane is a feminist character to root for and Eben Figueiredo’ Christian makes the play feel so contemporary you forget it is set hundreds years ago.
A special mention to the seductive monologue by James McAvoy as Cyrano, that made me weak to the knees: no nudity involved, no touching or anything… just a man sitting on a chair talking. Proof that in this modern and cold world, a man (or woman) that makes the effort to seduce your mind has already won the game!
Cyrano de Bergerac runs at the Playhouse Theatre until 29th February 2020. There are also special tickets for key workers, under 30s and people receiving job seeker’s allowance and other government benefits for only £15, available for specific evenings (fromtheboxoffice).
And a big thank you to James for being the most gracious man ever and signing autographs and taking pictures at the stage door after the play. The queue was long and the actor surely tired, but he made the effort to thank us all. As gracious and lovable as I remembered him back in 2007 when we took our first picture together.
To many more to come.