Stephen Israel is promising the perfect match between play and venue for this year’s Festival of Chichester when he brings his production of Cyrano to The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton.
Joint artistic director of site-specific theatre company The Company, Stephen is delighted to return to a venue he knows well – and a venue he believes will be absolutely right for his latest endeavour, an outdoor promenade performance of Edmond Rostand’s classic French story of love, swashbuckling honour, torn allegiances and a large nose.
“We have done a couple of shows at the Weald & Downland over the past ten years, and having worked with them before, I just thought Cyrano would be just perfect. You have actually got a medieval market place there. It is absolutely right. It is going to be just like working in heaven when you have got such a wonderful setting. With that medieval background, it is going to be wonderful.”
And relatively straight forward as well, Stephen hopes, compared to some of the other places they have performed over the years.
The Company commemorated the Battle of Lewes up on the Downs; it has also worked with steam trains: “And when it all comes down to timing, you realise that different drivers drive at different speeds! We even had a cracked piston on one train in one show!”
As for Rostand’s Cyrano: “For me, it is one of the greatest plays of all time. It is the most famous French play and also the most beautiful French play, and Suzi (Hopkins, who is adapting it) is looking at it all from a slightly-different angle. She is looking at it more from the Roxanne angle. But really it is just such a beautiful, extraordinary play. But we are changing things a bit. We are doing the John Wells version. He was famous as a co-founder of Private Eye, and he did a version that was done in the West End with Robert Lindsay. Suzi is adapting that. She is adapting an adaptation of a translation!
“We have got a cast of six. That’s the professional cast, but we have also got a community cast of 18-25 year-olds. I was out leafletting people, standing in Chichester, asking people, putting it on websites, and the great thing is that we have now got a fantastic group of 18-25 year-olds taking part, that are going to be like a chorus choir for the production.
“The Company has been going for about ten years now, but we became a charity last autumn, which is something that opens the doors to us in terms of funding. We now have proper trustees. We have got an accountant and a lawyer. It just gives us more kudos as a company. It means that we have really got to be thinking about what we are doing and why!”
Performances are Friday, June 10; Saturday, June 11; Sunday, June 12; Friday, June 17; Saturday, June 18; Sunday, June 19; Friday, July 1, 7.15pm, arrive 6.30pm for picnic; Saturday, July 2, 2pm (1.15pm); Sunday, July 3, 7.15pm (6.30pm).
Tickets on www.chichestertickets.co.uk.
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