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Q&A with Nari Blair-Mangat from the cast of Cyrano De Bergerac

Nari Blair-Mangat
Nari Blair-Mangat

James McAvoy returns to the West End in an inventive new adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s masterwork by Martin Crimp, with direction by Jamie Lloyd.

Fierce with a pen and notorious in combat, Cyrano almost has it all – if only he could win the heart of his true love. There’s just one big problem: he has a nose as huge as his heart. Will a society engulfed by narcissism get the better of De Bergerac – or can his mastery of language set Roxane’s world alight?

Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, freely adapted by Martin Crimp, is directed by Jamie Lloyd. Joining the Golden Globe and Olivier Award nominated James McAvoy (Cyrano de Bergerac) to complete the cast are Michele Austin (Ragueneau), Adam Best (Le Bret), Sam Black (Armand/Priest), Nari Blair-Mangat (Valvert), Philip Cairns (Referee), Tom Edden (De Guiche), Eben Figueiredo (Christian), Chris Fung (Usher), Adrian Der Gregorian (Montfleury), Carla Harrison-Hodge (Denise/Medic), Seun Shote (Theatre Owner), Kiruna Stamell (Marie-Louise), Nima Taleghani (Ligniere), and Anita-Joy Uwajeh (Roxane) with Vaneeka Dadhria, Mika Johnson and Brinsley Terence.

Nari Blair-Mangat on Cyrano De Bergerac
Q: What were your first thoughts when being cast in the show?
Nari: Casting director, Stuart Burt called me up and talked me through Martin Crimp’s adaptation of the play which is heavily influenced by grime MCs and spoken word artists like Kate Tempest so my imagination started running riot – as a teenager I used to throw raves in north London, this was back in the days before Facebook, and we’d have venues packed out with hundreds of young people because we were playing all the rap, garage and early grime music that was banned everywhere else. Stuff like; So Solid Crew’s 21 Seconds, Wiley’s Eskimo riddim, Kano Ps and Q’s, Lethal Bizzle Pow. Even last week I went to Livin Proof’s 12th birthday party, one of the best rap nights in London and people were going WILD. So I was mad excited to figure out how to bring all of those references to the rehearsal room and use them to help build the world and drive the narrative forward.

Q: Can you tell us about your character Valvert?
Nari: This might be the most fun stage role I’ve ever played….!! I instantly knew I wanted Valvert to have a regal feel, with the presence, charm and charisma of Anthony Joshua, Stormzy, Lewis Hamilton, Wilfried Zaha… so I showed Jamie Lloyd a whole load of visual references to check we were on the same page. Valvert’s clothes match his personality and he is in the ultimate drip, that high fashion streetwear that only rich kids wear or pro ballers with stylists – I had to sprinkle some hot sauce on it! So I was buzzing at my costume fitting, when Soutra and Anna had me rocking a pair of Maison Margiela knitted trainers, gotta be the only actor in the west end rocking those on stage right?
Valvert desperately wants to be as intellectually gifted as Cyrano, but in reality he’s a spoiled rich kid who isn’t actually very bright. Roxane – played by the awesome Anita Joy, is being forced to marry Valvert against her wishes and Cyrano is secretly in love with her. So, inevitably, Valvert and Cyrano have a duel. Valvert is a competent fighter but he more than meets his match in Cyrano… and our Fight Director Kate Waters has built a thrilling battle that really puts James and I through our paces – I can’t wait for audiences to see it!!

Q: What is at the heart of the production?
Nari: A fierce, unexpected love triangle full of twists and turns. And rapid fire rhymes!! And some male nudity. What more do you want from a night at the theatre?

Q: Written in 1897 – how has this play stood the test of time?
Nari: Cyrano’s character has a universal appeal, because his own insecurities are the thing that is holding him back from having everything his heart desires! Everyone has personal anxieties and doubts over something, whether it is physical or mental. And to forensically explore those emotional triggers and responses in a dramatic structure is a masterstroke by Rostand. We really hope that our audiences will see a bit of themselves in our Cyrano.

Q: Can you tell us about this particular production?
Nari: There are so many parallels between the work of a rapper or a spoken word poet and the verse in Edmond Rostand’s writing. As a performer you have to have that charge and skill to pull it off and the company are sooooo good at doing that. You can really feel the language elevate and pop at you when it works. During rehearsals, Jamie Lloyd has constantly pushed us to get out of our comfort zones as actors and push the rhyme form which has really stretched and challenged us to perform this great story in a way it has never been done before… I feel we are accentuating and embracing the true essence of Rostand’s original text. 100%.

Q: Why should this be a must-see show for theatregoers?
Nari: At our first read through I got such a good vibe from the immensely talented company and creative team. And I haven’t felt this buzzed about a show since the first table read of Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things at the NT…! So book a ticket while you still can…!

*******

Nari Blair-Mangat plays Valvert. His theatre credits include Colour is too Sweet (King’s Head Theatre), A Cord of Three Strands (RADA Festival), People, Places & Things (National Theatre/Wyndham’s Theatre), Macbeth (Manchester International Festival/Park Avenue Armory, NYC), Othello (Leicester Square Theatre), The Duchess of Malfi (The Old Vic) and Piaf (Vaudeville Theatre/Donmar Warehouse). His television credits include Temple; and for film Murder on the Orient Express, Cinderella, Spectre and Terry.

The Jamie Lloyd Company presents
Edmond Rostand’s
Cyrano de Bergerac
Freely adapted by Martin Crimp
Directed by Jamie Lloyd
Design: Soutra Gilmour; Lighting Design: Jon Clark; Sound and Composition: Ben and Max Ringham
Fight Direction by Kate Waters; Casting by Stuart Burt CDG
Playhouse Theatre
27 November 2019 – 29 February 2020
Press Night: Friday 6 December, 7.30pm

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  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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