Arts: More than moonshine

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The Independent Culture
THE CHEERFULLY borne rigours of outdoor productions on the edge of Cumbria can frequently offer remarkable compensations. For example, towards the close of the Duke's new promenade production of Cyrano de Bergerac, when the dying hero rises to address the moon - his emblem of love and blissful release - there is no need to entertain any conjecture, for a glance over the shoulder reveals the orb itself, drifting out of the clouds as though hidden from the stage manager's book.

Not even this company's ingenious technical crew can get things in phase every night (consult your diaries), but last Friday, just as I was fancying it might be warmer beside the Sea of Tranquillity, here was a theatrical moment of matchless serendipity.

There are other rewards, the first being the play's key scene where Cyrano's dancing woos his beloved Roxanne on behalf of the stumble-tongued Christian. Here we are grouped in a dell below Roxanne's balcony. Out of sight to her, Cyrano moves from ledge to ledge and bush to bush, his eventual vantage point nicely encapsulating the tension and precariousness of both his stratagem and his emotions.

The second special success is the battle scene, in which the sloping physical space can compensate for lack of numbers among the soldiery. Promenade productions are broad-brush affairs and certainly this, Ewan Marshall's first for the venue, does not lack swash and shout. But the fine complications of Rostand's characterisation explore exactly which identity Roxanne has fallen in love with - Christian's handsome figure, or disfigured Cyrano's intoxicating personality - and are delicately drawn.

As Cyrano, Nigel Betts is superb: gruff, masterly, eloquent and distinctly moving. Amy Worth, in her first professional year, is a characterful Roxanne and there is strong support from Marcello Walton as Christian and Rob Pickavance as De Guiche. Honourable mention is also due for Nicholas Camm's drunken Prologue in rhyming couplets advising us of the survival techniques for the evening. Highly recommended, even on moonless nights.

Until 4 July (01524 66645)

Jeffrey Wainwright