There aren’t many theatre companies that instil a confidence in their audience that everything you see them do is going to be good but every time I see a Sport for Jove show that’s exactly how I feel. The only trepidation I have heading out to their shows is whether I have enough petrol in the car to make it all the way to Bella Vista Farm, whether it will rain and wet my fabulous hair, that I will be attacked by a swarm of wasps or succumb to lactose intolerance from all the cheese I foolishly ate during the picnic dinner. Never, ever have I felt any concern over the quality of the work produced by Damien Ryan and his Sport for Jove team because they know how to do theatre, indoors and out, collaboratively and artistically, traditionally and contemporary and always with integrity.
There’s a tremendous lot of talent in play in each show and it feels like ego is checked at the door in favour of delivering the vision of the first artist, the writer and combining it with the vision of Ryan and the collective. No tricks, unless they serve the style and ideas; no big name stars carrying a show but an ensemble with experience, skill and commitment and really good material delivered by a top notch artistic team.
Sport for Jove care about their audience and it’s obvious that by promising and delivering an experience that its punters find clever, creative and cathartic that the rest of the industry and the general public have nothing but respect and anticipation for each show produced.
‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ was no exception to this rule. Director Damien Ryan even enlisted the assistance of the team to help inspire him to adapt the text and he has crafted a version absolutely loyal to the original but with such a modern and playful edge that his cast own it, led by Yalin Ozucelik as Cyrano. But taking the adage, ‘no small roles, only small actors’ whenever anyone in the ensemble was on stage, they were absolutely present, in role and alive for the moment. There is a beauty of readiness from each actor that helps suspend our disbelief as audience, even in the most exceptional of circumstances. For instance, we’ve just entered the barn to watch the starving soldiers fight off their enemy somewhere in the distance and yet I’m there with them. Even the moon got in on the action and when it was called for in dialogue, it politely cooperated and hit its mark, on cue, emerging from the clouds. I mean when a company can control nature, you had better sit up and watch.
There were a couple of moments I felt an edit might have been nice- all to do with Cyrano’s dialogue (and Ozucelik has more words to pump out at lightning speed than seems humanly possible). The lazzi where Cyrano mocks his own nose just stretched the elastic too far and his death scene had a touch of the Pyramus and Thisbe but that’s also a problem in the cocktail of the epic, romance, melodrama and realism that anyone would find hard to master.
But this is a minor criticism in what is an excellent production. Kudos to Ozucelik, to Lizzie Schebesta’s feisty portrayal of Roxane and Scott Sheridan’s handsome, cheeky but intellectually paralysed Christian de Neuvilette. I could easily list every cast member and the fine performances from each and how Ryan manages to use audience in the gentlest of ways to include without intimidating, how Barry French has used this gorgeous setting of the Bella Vista Farm to create the world of the stage, of homesteads, nunneries, battlefields and bakeries and how Anna Gardiner has provided a masculine European period design and how impressed I was with Toby Knyvett’s lighting. Every player wins a prize and the audience win the biggest prize of all and that is the privilege of seeing great theatre.
So head to Sport for Jove with the confidence that you are witnessing a troupe who know how to produce good theatre and that’s exactly what you’re going to get.