Tag Archives: Gina Bramhill

Having a Nose Around

EDMOND DE BERGERAC

The REP, Birmingham, Friday 22nd March, 2019

 

Cyrano de Bergerac is one of the greatest historical romance dramas ever written.  Most people will be familiar with the title character and his big nose and perhaps also with the idea of him providing words of love for another man to woo the woman they both love.  This play by Alexis Michalik (in an ebullient translation by Jeremy Sams) tells the story of that play’s making.  We follow the early career of poet Edmond Rostand, his flops and his writer’s block, until he finds inspiration in the form of Jeanne, who happens to be the girlfriend of Rostand’s mate Leo.  To add to the triangle, Rostand is married…

Michalik builds in elements that directly influence Rostand in the creation of his masterpiece, so the action closely mirrors the great work that is to come.  Which is fun – we’re not here for historical accuracy!

As the writer-under-pressure, the delicately-featured Freddie Fox is excellent.  Caught up in a whirl of romantic intrigue and theatrical creativity, Fox dashes around, getting more and more frazzled and then, when inspiration strikes, he bubbles over with enthusiasm.  Of course, there is more to the writing process than this, but we’re not here for verisimilitude!

Fox is supported by a fine ensemble, with featured roles from Robin Morrissey as fit but dim Leo (the model for Cyrano’s Christian) and Gina Bramhill as Rostand’s muse Jeanne (the model for Cyrano’s Roxanne).   Jodie Lawrence is a lot of fun as a fruity-voiced Sarah Bernhardt, among other roles, while Henry Goodman is magnificent as celebrated actor Coquelin (the first to play the role of Cyrano).  Harry Kershaw is hilarious as Coquelin’s son – it takes skill to act badly! And Chizzy Akudolu swans around like a true diva as Maria, slated to be the first Roxanne.  Delroy Atkinson’s Monsieur Honore is immensely appealing – it is he who is the model for Cyrano – and I enjoy Nick Cavaliere and Simon Gregor as a pair of unsavoury backers.

Robert Innes Hopkins’s set is a theatre within the theatre, a stage upon the stage.  This is a theatrical piece about a piece of theatre.  Director Roxana Silbert heightens the farcical aspects of the situation as well as the more dramatic moments, delivering a highly effective piece of storytelling, and that is what we’re here for!  While this is a lot of fun and is excellently presented, it doesn’t pack the emotional wallop of Rostand’s great work, but then, it doesn’t have to.

We might leave knowing more about Rostand than when we came in, but above all this amusing night at the theatre makes us want to see Cyrano again.

Freddie Fox (Edmond) in Edmond de Bergerac_credit Graeme Braidwood

Fantastic Mr Freddie Fox and Delroy Atkinson (Photo: Graeme Braidwood)

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Bad Jews/Good Play

BAD JEWS

St James Theatre, London, Thursday 12th February, 2015

 

Those closest to us have the potential to hurt us the most and, when they’ve a mind to, know exactly which buttons to press to inflict the most damage.  Family members in particular are armed in this manner – and this is the engine that drives Joshua Harmon’s play, in which members of a Jewish family gather in a studio flat in the aftermath of their grandfather’s funeral.

There is Jonah (Joe Coen) quiet and withdrawn, seeking not to be involved in the spats and sparring.  Visiting is cousin Diana (who prefers to be called Daphna) and the contrast between the two could not be sharper.  Jonah couldn’t get a word in if he wanted to.  Daphna (a steamroller of a performance from Jenna Augen) loves to talk and to carp and to kvetch.  She is particularly vocal in her condemnation of Jonah’s brother Liam, who failed to show up to the funeral.  We dislike Daphna almost instantly; she is relentlessly egocentric and vicious, but Augen imbues her with a spark that makes the character fascinating.  It’s like watching a predator setting its traps – you daren’t take your eyes off her.

When Liam (Ilan Goodman) turns up with his Aryan girlfriend Melody (Gina Bramhill) in tow, the fur begins to fly.  The bone of contention between them is an heirloom to which they each lay claim.  To Daphna, it has religious significance; to Liam its history has a sentimental impact that is a means to an end – he plans to use the beloved trinket as a prop in his proposal of marriage to Melody.

What neither Daphna nor Liam can see (but it is as plain as day to us) is that these warring cousins are exactly alike in their arrogance and selfishness, albeit they occupy opposite ends of the spectrum that indicates adherence to tradition.

Harmon’s script has more barbs than a perimeter fence and is a gift for this quartet of actors.  Director Michael Longhurst handles the crescendos and rests like a maestro.  One of Liam’s rants stops the show, earning Goodman a round of applause.  Otherwise, this is a naturalistic piece; the funny lines come from the characters’ wit, rather than the playwright’s – if that makes sense!

Daphna’s cruelty towards Melody is premium-grade bullying, and seems unwarranted until, in the blistering climax, Melody’s true colours are revealed.

The symbolic power of grandfather’s heirloom is trumped by a final reveal from Jonah.  A ‘bad Jew’ is one who only observes the rules by acknowledging when he has broken one.  Jonah’s tattoo makes him such a ‘bad Jew’ but it also makes one heck of a gesture, which lifts the piece above the level of a debate-cum-slanging match with issues.

A tour de force from all concerned and yes, it is very, very funny.

Ilan Goodman and Jenna Augen

Ilan Goodman and Jenna Augen