Douglas Hodge, From Z to C: His Zaza and Now—God Nose—His Cyrano Are Packed With Panache

But betray not a pinch of Pinter

“In my profession—I’ve mainly done Shakespeare—you just take the part and mean what you say and play it as honestly as you can,” he explained. “I never saw Cyrano as a play. I’ve seen films of it. I saw Derek Jacobi’s version on TV and the movies with Depardieu and Ferrer. I’ve seen Steve Martin’s version [Roxanne, set in a small-town American firehouse] and The Truth About Cats and Dogs and all those things.”

So how is his Cyrano different from those? For one thing—and he can cite chapter and verse on this—it seems cockney-close to the common man: “I think that’s in the play. He’s often played as a patrician, but there’s no evidence for it. He has no money. They say he dresses in rags. You can make him look great, but that’s not in the text. The text says he doesn’t have a patron. No one supports him. At the end of the play, he’s almost poverty-stricken, living life like some painter in a garret. Even at the beginning, they say, ‘You look terrible.’ If you see the Comédie-Française version, he’s a real man of the people—a soldier, with this great disfigurement.”

Ranjit Bolt’s brand-new translation, he pointed out, is the first time Cyrano has been done on Broadway entirely in rhyming couplets. “I find the lines are easier to learn if they rhyme, but, when you get them wrong, it’s not very easy to get out of it. There’s always that terror, but, once it starts to flow, it flows along. This must be one of the longest roles ever written, but it doesn’t feel quite as tiring as Zaza, because I’m not in high heels.”