We went to see a National Theatre Live screening of “Cyrano De Bergerac” tonight, which I thought was excellent. It’s a new adaptation that translates the 19th-century French classic into modern rhyme in a style more like hip hop or slam poetry than any traditional form of verse. James McAvoy gave an emotionally brutal yet compelling performance as the title character and the supporting cast, well, supported him brilliantly. (I particularly enjoyed Michele Austin as a gender-swapped Ragueneau.) The minimalist stage and the modern (yet very perceptive) costumes both allow the play to focus on the language more than the romance. And considering that this play has a slightly different (though still very French and tragic) ending than the original, perhaps the language is more satisfying than the love story, anyway.
Every time we go to see one of these National Theatre Live screenings, I have two primary thoughts. One, I love that we’re able to see first-class theatre from the UK for the price of a movie ticket, and two, it makes me ache to do a decent stage play.
When I did the holiday show in 2018, I hadn’t been onstage in over 15 years. (I don’t think the occasional karaoke night counts.) I was merely a part of the supporting chorus, but I was forcibly reminded that every single performer counts in a production like that. I wasn’t cut down by the easily-dissatisfied ego of my youth; I could just enjoy the work. It was a revelation.
I hadn’t lost my touch, either. Though I had no lines, I played the wife of one of the main characters. He had to deliver a Shakespeare sonnet to me while I simply stood and beamed at him. He thanked me before the last performance for always giving him so much to work with even though I didn’t speak. Acting is very often reacting, and it’s hard to do in a vacuum.
As much as I enjoy watching good theatre, it’s so much more rewarding to be a part of it — even a small part, even in a small show. I think that participating in any form of art or performance is better than merely consuming it. Don’t get me wrong: I think you should do both. But if you’re a creative person, you need to act, write, draw, paint, design, build, or sing. The process of working at your chosen art is part of the appreciation, in my opinion.
Join a choir, write that memoir, design a knitting pattern. Do something. It’s important.
And I need to remember to take my own advice.