Edmond Rostand’s classic French play Cyrano gets a new working when The Company bring their production to the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton as part of this year’s Festival of Chichester.
Suzi Hopkins is adapting her own new version from the John Wells version which was a hit in the West End.
“It’s a beautiful story, above all,” says Suzi. “It’s a really wonderful story, but when I was reading it more closely, I was intrigued by the story of Roxanne. She is one of the most amazing women in literature. She has everything. She is intelligent and beautiful and brilliant, and she cares enormously, but is also very practical. She takes food for the soldiers. She doesn’t just go off to visit her lover. She is the most amazingly-strong and independent woman, but I feel somehow Rostand never really sees things from her point of view. He creates this great woman, but never really explores what these two men do to her. I just wanted to draw out her story more, and that’s one of the things the Sussex Chorus Choir will be doing. I am also condensing the story. It is very wordy in the original, and you don’t want wordy when you are doing an outdoor promenade performance. People won’t hear well enough. You want to be able to concentrate much more on the physical side of the show, and that’s why we have got the Sussex Chorus Choir, which is a group of 18-25 year-olds that (co-artistic director) Stephen (Israel) has got together.”
“They are playing every-day people from now, and it is going to be their take on the play. They are a modern chorus and will be very modern. They will be playing their own age, and they will be playing themselves in effect, and we are going to get through them their take on this very traditional, very romantic story, bringing out how Roxanne is abused by these two men, bringing out their modern responses to what is happening, their take on the whole social media aspect of it. The confusions and the deceptions you get with the letter-writing in the original play are very similar to what you can get with social media these days.”
It’s an age group Suzi is delighted to involve: “Our policy is that everyone that wants to take part is welcome. We want to get as broad a spectrum as possible, but it is very hard to engage people aged 18 to 25. Once people have left school or college, they drop out of cultural engagement, maybe because they go off to university. But they don’t join the older drama societies. They just do other things, and for the cultural things, they just tend to disappear. They are very hard to catch and to engage, which is what we are trying to do here. Stephen was excellent at getting them involved. He literally stood on the street corner looking for people and asking them if they would be interested in taking part. We have done lots of things just to try to draw people in in that age bracket.”
Performances are Friday, July 1, 7.15pm, arrive 6.30pm for picnic; Saturday, July 2, 2pm (1.15pm); Sunday, July 3, 7.15pm (6.30pm).
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