Cartoon de Salvo’s Cyrano is an major international production currently in development. We’re working with French rap superstar R.Wan – formerly of the band Java. Here is the story and ideas behind the show:

We have wanted for years to work on our own version of Cyrano de Bergerac. It’s one of our favourite plays – we tell stories that wear their hearts on their sleeve, Cyrano de Bergerac is the sleeviest, heartiest story of them all.

Cyrano de Bergerac is a famously romantic 1897 play by Edmond de Rostand. You may know it from the Depardieu film or the Hollywood version, Roxanne, with Steve Martin. The story is about a poet and soldier who loves his beautiful cousin Roxane, but is too self-conscious about his giant nose to tell her. Instead, he assists a fellow cadet, Christian, to woo her – even supplying him the words of love which will unclasp Roxane’s heart. It’s a story about love, primarily, but also about isolation, about honour and idealism, about the refusal to compromise one’s principles.

As our ideas for our own version evolved, we began to notice how closely these themes resonated with thoughts we had about Cartoon de Salvo and our own lives. Our experience running a theatre company after 16yrs – the excitement we feel about our work, the desire to tell beautiful stories, set against the difficulties of making this career work deep into middle-age (the need to make money, the temptation to compromise) – these are all dramatised in this play about a die-hard artist and idealist who’d cut off his own nose rather than betray his commitment to the romantic spirit. Or panache, as he calls it – a word the play introduced to the English language.

Our version of Cyrano explicitly splices the story of Cartoon de Salvo into the story of Cyrano. The idea is that we do a version of the whole play – not a small-scale downsizing of it, but the whole play – albeit with just 3 of us performing. That in itself is novel: we’ve never done a classic play before. But it’s the challenge we’ve set ourselves and – we think – the challenge Cyrano would set us. But spliced into and shot through that, our version will also play with these overlaps between his adventure and ours. Cartoon de Salvo’s Cyrano will dramatise the story of Cartoon de Salvo as well as that of Cyrano de Bergerac.

What have we done so far?

Cyrano is in the early embryonic stages of being. In 2013, we spent two weeks at Shoreditch Town Hall exploring our initial ideas and testing our relationship with R.Wan and acclaimed designer Michael Vale. At the end of the two weeks we had a clearer sense of how we want to approach telling the whole story as well as a commitment to inter-weaving our own story. Since those two weeks, Alex has been to France to continue conversations with R.Wan and to start conversations with French venues about collaborations and touring opportunities.

We made a short trailer of what we discovered, you can view it here.

We know that we want the show to be part-gig, part-theatre. We want to directly play with the subtitles and perform the piece bilingually so that it can be equally understood by French and English speakers alike. We are keen to explore ideas of Britishness and Frenchness. We want to reach music, theatre and bilingual audiences. But most of all we want to reconnect audiences with their panache – feeling, like Cyrano, they could take on 100 enemies and win.

The immediate next steps

This is a big and ambitious project that we are looking to make in stages. The next stage involves the three Salvos to get in a room and write a Cartoon de Salvo adaptation of that text – which will be a new departure for us, a new way of working.

Subsequent to this, and with an English-Salvo version of the play written, we will then be inviting R.Wan to input, develop and add French elements to the text.

Following this, there will be a further writing and music development stage before the final creation period and tour. We’re working towards 2016 to make and tour the show, and hope to take the work to audiences in the UK and France.

We are looking for partners to help us develop Cyrano. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact us.