Monday, November 13, 2006

REVIEW: Cyrano (Project, Dublin)

Two celebrity chefs and a New York Times food critic (from Longford, no less) make up the bizarre love triangle in Barabbas update of the Cyrano de Bergerac story.

Laddish Christian (Aidan Turner) has knocked the aging superchef, Cyrano (Raymond Keane) from his perch, a TV studio-cum-kitchen, and is now wooing Roxanne, the woman the old cook secretly loves. Now, for reasons that are not at all clear, Cyrano decides to aid in Roxanne’s seduction.

Instead of the arts of courtly love, however, what Cyrano has to share are the secrets of his culinary arts, which will conquer Roxanne. And in a nice bit of re-writing, the love letters sent by the original Cyrano-disguised-as- his-rival become emails, forging a neat connection between the antique story of deception and a twenty-first century of chatrooms and fluid online identities.

Only problem is, the secrets Cyranno bestows are of a remarkably prosaic kind – seduce her with oysters and fancy white wine, is the summation of Cyrano’s first step. So why exactly does Christian – himself also a celebrity chef -- not already know this, or not have a burning opinion of his own, or indeed a clue about food?

It may be something to do with the company’s style, which remains rather cartoonish, despite the absence of red noses, but the foodie setting never quite becomes much more than a backdrop. There is plenty of chat about food, ample helpings of culinary name-dropping, but the passion for cooking never really ignites because the details are so sketchy.

On stage, food is about a specific as it gets. Produce some flour, some eggs and bottle of wine and you’ve whet our appetites. If those items then turn out to be nothing more than props, there is an unquestionable disappointment, particularly when the play is about two chefs and a food critic.

The performances were a little unsteady as of opening night. All three actors contributed at one time or another to the fun, but things were not slipping easily into place. Together they achieved some very funny moments – some early business with a hidden microphone was excellent – but the energy too often dissipated, rather than adding to the momentum.

This sticky progress was exacerbated by elements of the plot that didn’t quite add up, while some of the multimedia elements were far enough from breathtaking as to be adjacent to superfluous. All of which gave an odd sense of making the best of a bad situation, as though some theatrical chef were quickly trying to save a sauce that had cracked.

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