Nima Taleghani plays Ligniere in Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, freely adapted by Martin Crimp, and directed by Jamie Lloyd. The production also stars James McAvoy as Cyrano de Bergerac.
Cyrano de Bergerac is the first production in a new season directed by Jamie Lloyd which opens at Playhouse Theatre on 6 December, with previews from 27 November and runs until 29 February.
You’re appearing in Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse, what can you tell us about it?
What we’re tryna do in the rehearsal room is get to the essence of the action in every moment of the play. So like, for example: as my character, if I’m introducing someone to the audience, rather than bringing them onstage with me in a theatrically naturalistic way, what can we do to represent that gesture? How can we distil that moment so that we’re doing something much more interesting than walking on and gesticulating? So, I’d probably say, expect less frills and more of a condensed, dynamic beating heart to the storytelling & action.
What excites you the most about this production?
I like that we’re doing something really different and exciting with the form, that we’re not just doing ‘another version’ of a classic. Even more than that, I’m thrilled that every performer has been given licence to bring their whole selves and culture and energy to the show. From the first conversation I had with Jamie our director, we spoke about the importance of this; for your true self to be welcomed in any production.
Not a compromised version where you’re asked to change your accent to be more ‘palatable’. It’s a real shame that in theatre I’ve had experiences and I see when certain people aren’t celebrated for who they truly are. What’s the point of a ‘diverse’ cast if what they are made to do on stage is in no way representative of who they are? You can be used as a tool to authenticate a story or just be a token. And that gives you a sense of ‘ah I ain’t really supposed to be here’ imposter syndrome type thing and especially cos I never went drama school, and didn’t even have an agent when I first started acting professionally a few years ago, I’ve always had this feeling that I’ve snuck in the back door illegally or something.
But boy do I feel celebrated on this job! I think it says a lot about Jamie as a person. He even mentioned it at the beginning of the first day of rehearsals. We are encouraged to be who we are, unadulterated, and not agreeable versions. Ain’t nothing more exciting than that.
Tell us about your character?
I play Ligniere. He’s a poet. Friend of Cyrano’s. He’s political. He speaks out against corruption and injustice in his poems. And also kicks off the action and introduces the world of the play in a way. He’s a local lad, lyrical, strongly believes in freedom of speech, progress and loves a drink.
What have you learned from director Jamie Lloyd?
I’ve learnt to trust my instincts more & exercise patience. Jamie is only concerned with finding moments of really truthful connection, whether it’s with the audience, castmates or yourself. He doesn’t want any fakery as a substitute ‘till you get there’. He gently layers dimensions onto scenes, so I’ve learnt to take my time and focus on the moments feeling genuinely honest. And whenever I feel better with something I’ve done, he’s always happier with it. That correlation always exists. It’s flippin’ cool.
This production is being made more accessible with low price and even free tickets, what difference do you think that will make to the audiences you attract?
A huge difference I hope. I think it’s an incredible way of tackling elitism, whilst encouraging & exposing people to the arts who normally wouldn’t be. Because of this scheme, I’m able to bring some youth groups that I work with, and lots of family & friends who can’t put away some disposable income for a West End show. It would be so amazing to perform for people who I identify with if that makes sense? Not only people who can afford it or who have had the privilege of being exposed to theatre from a young age. We’ll hopefully get a truly London Town audience.
What will audiences find most surprising about Martin Crimp’s adaptation?
I mean for people who know the story of Cyrano de Bergerac or have seen the play before, they may find Martin’s adaptation most surprising in how freely, truthfully and cheekily the characters speak. In a way that we might recognise in ourselves. Whilst still heavily rhythmic. Less swashbuckling, more connecting with one another in dynamic ways. The beauty of it is though, that for a lot of people, this will be the only Cyrano they’ve seen or heard of. And that’s magic.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Cyrano de Bergerac?
In a theatre, where the audience sit is called The House and where the actors perform is the stage. So, if you choose to take a seat, then you are home. We’ll be grateful to you for hosting us, and do everything possible for you to feel something new & powerful.
Main Image: Nima Taleghani