In anticipation of next week’s school production, we sat down to chat with three of the stars of our 2022 play, “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Bertie takes on the titular role while Mima plays the beautiful and intelligent Roxane and Holly plays Cyrano’s rival for Roxane’s affections, Christian de Neuville.
What do you think is the main motivation of the character you play?
Bertie: My main motivation is to win the heart of Roxane and to help Christian do that. Cyrano wants to create love for himself and for others. He’s a massive romantic.
Mima: I think Roxane wants to find love, but she also likes people loving her. She just wants to be adored by someone. She’s looking to fall in love herself, but she likes that Christian is so adoring of her.
Holly: For Roxane to love him. He doesn’t use his own words to woo her, but he still wants her to love him, and he wants to be a hero in the end.
What do you think that the play is really about?
Bertie: The play is about what’s on the inside.
Mima: It’s about learning to focus on inner beauty rather than outer beauty. At the start, most of the focus is on how Christian is so handsome but then Roxane ends up loving him for his personality and his words, but those words aren’t really Christian’s. It’s about disregarding the outer beauty and focusing on what’s within.
Holly: I agree. I think it’s also about getting to know someone before really liking them. Instead of just jumping into liking them, you need to actually know who they are. Roxane doesn’t really know who Christian is apart from his letters which aren’t actually from him.
For you, what has been the most challenging part of inhabiting your character?
Bertie: The biggest challenge for me is that I’ve never played a character like Cyrano before. In previous productions, I’ve always been the evil, murderous villain who’s very loud and angry! Cyrano is completely the opposite of that. He does have a sword and fights in duels but he’s a soft person. The second challenge is learning the lines! There are so many lines and it’s so hard to learn them. I’ve got a good technique for learning them, but I’m rarely off stage so there really is a lot to remember. Lastly, learning how to do stage combat. It’s very physically and mentally draining because, with every movement, you’ve got to make it look convincing but also be very aware of not hurting the person you’re fighting, whilst also singing a ballad at the same time!
Mima: I agree with Bertie that the line learning is really hard. Also, I think Roxane is very naïve and she’s very much an idealist, so I found it hard to find the characterisation of her, seeing how blind she is to things at times. Mr Hornsby (Head of Drama) will sometimes say “You’re thinking like Mima right now” and I can see why. Roxane is so young and innocent, and she doesn’t really notice what’s going on around her. It made the characterisation challenging.
Holly: Having to play a boy! That has been quite an experience, having to think about, not what I would do in that situation, but what a male cadet would do. He’s quite a masculine character and I need to portray that as a person who’s not masculine.
Do you have any special tips or tricks for managing nerves?
Bertie: Breathe! I think, for me, it would be weird if you weren’t nervous going into a performance in which you really want to do well. In this case, we’ve spent over two months preparing for it so it would be strange not to be nervous, but you can perform well with nerves. They give you lots of adrenaline which you can channel. Use that energy.
Mima: I just take deep breaths and try to channel the nerves into what I’m doing and use them to heighten whatever emotion I’m portraying on stage. Just smile through it and don’t look at the audience too much.
Holly: Nerves show that you care and that this is something you’re proud of. We’ve been working on it for so long that it would be strange if we weren’t nervous!
What have been the main highlights from rehearsals?
Bertie: Rehearsing has been really fun. Mr Hornsby’s phrase is “Take ownership of the story that you’re telling”, and that has been really useful. If we take ownership of it, then the play is about our creativity and becomes what we want it to be. That’s the whole idea of the school production, to get everyone who loves drama and theatre together and channel their creativity into one performance.
Mima: It has all been so much fun! We’ve definitely had a real laugh in rehearsals. I think the funniest scene to prepare was my scene with De Guiche where he’s about to go off to war and he fancies Roxane. Morgan has to do this big slobbery kiss on my hand, and he just plays such a funny character and is so over the top. Everyone was laughing and the atmosphere in that rehearsal was a real highlight for me.
Holly: Mine is the cast. This year, the cast has been such a fun group of people and we all get on so well, it just makes everything so much better. I like that it’s a smaller cast because we all get to know each other a lot more and when we do well in our performance, it makes it so much more fun at the end because we’re all so proud of each other.
Bertie: You have to rely on each other so much more than you would with a bigger cast because it’s a more heavily ensemble piece.
Mima: Yes, we’re all sharing in it together rather than being separate.
Thank you so much to Bertie, Mima and Holly for finding time out of your busy rehearsal schedule to speak to us. To see pictures from the show, please click here.