Sound And Fury rework the story of Cyrano de Bergerac and his unrequited love for the fair Roxanne through a mixture of gag-a-minute comic routines, silly song parodies and audience-baiting improvisation, bringing old-fashioned vaudeville to the Edinburgh stage.
As the trio that make up Sound And Fury admit, theatre isn’t hugely respected in America. To say you’re performing onstage is often taken to mean “not good enough for TV”. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that they’ve opted to view Cyrano De Bergerac through a more American lens, that of variety and vaudeville. The story is a familiar one: witty, accomplished Cyrano is in love with Roxanne, but is ashamed of his huge nose (in this version, a result of Body Dysmorphic Disorder rather than any nasal grotesquery). Instead, Roxanne has fallen for handsome yet stupid Christian.
De Bergerac ends up helping the young man woothe woman he loves with his ownl yrical declarations. As with all vaudeville, the plot is merely a framework upon which to hang a series of routines and jokes of tremendous variety: references to Blaise Pascal and his adding machine vie with pop lyrics, running gags about a constantly moving beauty spot, discussions on French pronunciation, and near-the-knuckle innuendo.
As Cyrano, Richard Maritzer holds the audience, as well as the play, together. It takes a confident performer to get the crowd to recite the first eighteen lines of the script (read from laminated cards) as he does: an ingenious device to bring the paying public immediately onside. The other two play multiple roles: Vinny Cardinale is a diverting (if bony-chested) Roxanne and the actor McFlurry; while Shelby Bond, ever-grinning, gallops between costume changes as Christian, De Quiche, and various others, taking a childish delight in the pace and sheer silliness of it all.
With minimal props, and on a bare stage, the cast make a virtue out of their limited circumstances, which include having had their swords impounded by customs, while also making use of cartoon-like sound effects: a result of having toured this show globally for the last twelve months. Indeed, so tight are the performers that it’s hard to tell if sometimes the improvisations around mistakes are just that, or have been incorporated for more comic business. Not once, however, do they lose sight of the main plot.
In the end, this is an hour of unadulterated fun, and nothing more, as evinced by their closing number, “The Morality Song”. However to hold a cold, wet Edinburgh audience rapt for an hour requires skill as well as charm. Erudition and smut held together with the manic energy of The Marx Brothers: these are truly modern vaudevillians at the height of their powers.
Reviewed by DD 11/8/08