Mix Aperol Spritz with a picnic in the gardens and add some classic comedy and you’ve got yourself a fabulous summer of theatre.
For the first time in Australia, Open Gardens SA and Blue Sky Theatre are performing the romantic comedy Cyrano de Bergerac in gardens over four weekends in January and it’s set to be an event not to be sniffed at.
Directed by award winning dramaturge David Simms and set in the seventeenth century, the show follows Cyrano, a poet and soldier with an impossibly gigantic nose, who loves the beautiful Roxane but lacks the courage to tell her.
Facing stiff competition from handsome yet tongue-tied Christian, events take a nosedive when war breaks out and more suitors start sniffing around.
Playing in Victor Harbour, Collingrove Homestead near Angaston, Carrick Hill and Aldgate, David says he chose to take Cyrano de Bergerac on the road because it’s a wonderful comic classic that plays well in an outdoor setting.
“I wanted to do a love story with a bit of a difference,” he says. “And this is a love story where there’s three different blokes after the same girl. One of them is beautiful but stupid, one of them is really clever but ugly, and the other one is married already and just wants a bit on the side. So, which one would you pick? Well, it’s an age-old conundrum. It just fascinated me that 400 years ago, this was a question I think people might still be wrestling with this today.”
“And of course, we’ve got the fun of being outdoors, which is what Blue Sky Theatre always does. We always like to do stuff in gardens in the summertime, because then the whole experience is delightful. You come along, you have a picnic, a couple of wines, and then sit outside, and as the sun goes down we’ll do the show for you. And there’s a certain sort of magic, of doing it outdoors. It’s really lovely vibe.”
As well as being a more sensory experience for the audience, David says outdoor theatre brings you closer to the show and to each other.
“There ends up being a bit of a bond,” he says. “You feel a lot closer to it all. There’s a bit of a sense that we’re all in it together, because if the wind picks up, for example, or if it gets a bit warm one night, we all go, ‘Right, we’re going to get through this together. We’re all in it together.’ You’re also very, very close to it all. We do it very simply. We haven’t got lots of lights and we don’t have microphones, or recorded sound, or anything. It’s live music and actors, right in front of you, probably only a couple of metres away, talking normally. It feels very personal and you do feel like you’re all in it together.”
Edmond Rostand wrote Cyrano de Bergerac in 1897 and is responsible for introducing the word ‘panache’ into the English language.
The play been translated and performed many times and even made into the motion picture Roxanne in 1987, but David and Blue Sky Theatre are keeping the show in its traditional era.
“We’re setting it back in 1640, which is where it was originally set, but we’re using an adaptation that was done in the UK that makes the language very modern and very easy to understand,” he says. So, it’s still all the lovely old costumes, everyone looks gorgeous, but we’ve made the language more modern. It’s a bit sort of wry and witty, lively and accessible. We’re just having fun with it.”
“One of the clever things about this adaptation was that it’s obviously a story with a lot of blokes in it, and the story normally finishes at a convent full of nuns. But what the playwright did when he did it outside in England is, to give more female parts, he’s actually got the nuns at the beginning, and they then actually tell the story. So, the nuns actually rip off their habits and become some of the men in the story, so half of the men in the story are played by nuns.”
And as well as impressive thespians, the Blue Sky team are also costumiers who create their own wardrobe for each show.
“The costumes are gorgeous,” David says. “We have a team who make all the costumes from scratch, so we’re not begging, borrowing or stealing. We make everything for every character, or we make everything to fit every person. So, every shirt, every sash, every cape, every hat, every dress has all been made. They’re all accurate to the period, and we have a team who work for about three months to make them all bright and colourful and gorgeous.
“We go to that extra special effort with costumes, because outdoors, we haven’t got lighting effects. We haven’t got sound effects. We can’t fade to black; we can’t bring a curtain in. There’s no scenery, apart from the natural wonders of the gardens, so we have to make special effort with the costumes and the props, just to make it look really visually exciting. So, it always looks beautiful.”
Featuring the acting talents of Robert Bell, Joshua Coldwell, Lee Cook, James Edwards, Miriam Keane, Lindy LeCornu, Ashley Penny, Nicole Rutty, Angela Short, Joanne St Clair and Leighton Vogt, audiences are in for a treat.
“They’re all very accomplished actors who’ve been around in Adelaide for many years,” David says. “Cyrano is being played by James Edwards, who’s been in many things around town over the years, and has won some awards. Another award-winning actor, Robert Bell, is playing Christian who is the pretty but stupid one; he can’t even form a sentence, it’s hopeless. Then a young woman called Ashley Penny is playing Roxane. She’s a real up-and-comer. She’s a star of the future, I tell you. She’s absolutely fabulous.”
And if you enjoy your classic theatre with a classy beverage, you’ll be pleased to know Blue Sky Theatre have teamed up with Aperol Spritz to create a refreshing experience.
“When you book your tickets, you can book a picnic as well, or you can bring your own. The way it works is: you have your picnic on the lawn, bring your own chairs, or your own rugs, and then we give you a seat for the show in the little amphitheatre. A lot of people bring their own picnic, and we have a bar where we’ve got Howard’s wines,” David says.
“This year we’re doing a promotion with Aperol spritz, which is going to be gorgeous, because a lot of the show involves a girl going around selling oranges, so we wanted something orange-based.”
Cyrano de Bergerac will be staged at gardens in Victor Harbor on 11, 12 and 13 January, Collingrove Homestead near Angaston on 19 and 20 January, Carrick Hill on 25, 26 and 27 January, and Stangate House in Aldgate on 1 and 2 February.
Tickets and picnic hampers are available at blueskytheatre.com.au so get along to experience theatre in the garden.