There are two monumental reasons to see this production.
The first is the performance of Brian Ferguson in the title role. People will be talking about his extraordinary commitment, humour, bravado and energy for many years to come. It was a pleasure to congratulate him on his performance afterwards. A complement he accepted with wonderful grace and modesty.
In a dense and complex piece of theatre he carries the show along on shoulders as broad as the Clyde.
That’s not to underplay the ensemble’s performance but the eruption from the audience when he took his solo bow said a lot.
The second is the equally extraordinary costumes by fashion designer Pam Hogg. It looks like this is her first ever theatre commission having dealt with fashion and music – Kylie, Gaga, Siouxsie – for the majority of her much celebrated career. Some of the costumes in this production simply take the breath away, in particular Roxanne’s, and often they are brilliantly lit by Lizzie Powell to intensify the impact.
They range from the spectacular and dazzling to the brilliantly understated. (When did you last see a Pere Ubu tour T shirt?)
The production is dense, often spectacular, funny, charming and interestingly musical, although unlike the recent Twelfth Night the music here plays a more background role. I like that in David Greig’s tenure music has moved way up the agenda at The Lyceum.
I’d like to see CDB again because, unlike film adaptations of the play that I have seen, it has far more substance and much more is made of the war which unites the male characters of the cast; the Gascon battalion who are fighting on the Spanish front line.
It’s a five act play (that is often truncated) which means you need to prepare for three hours in the theatre making it something of a feat of endurance – particularly given the fine Scots adaptation, by Edwin Morgan, of what seems almost Shakespearean in its rhythmic verse form.
It’s impossible to catch every nuance and meaning and some of its delight is latching on to Scottish colloquialisms that are entirely out of time and place but wonderfully clever.
This is bold, assured and brave theatre that deserves to be seen.