The first translation of Cyrano de Bergerac in 1898, introduced the world “panache” into the English language. The hero of the play became the stuff of French theatrical legend. Cyrano with the nose of a clown and the soul of a poet, is by turns hilarious and sad, as reckless in love as in war, but never, ever, at a loss for words. Already a legend in his own time, our Mayor, Boris Johnson shares many of these qualities, not least his wit, verbal dexterity, courage under attack and refusal to be anything but true to himself.
When Edmond Rostand wrote the play, so sure was he that it was going to be a failure (social realism ruled in the theatre of the nineteenth century) that he apologised to the actor taking the leading role for involving him in a flop. So little had been spent on the sets, anticipating disaster, that the playright nearly attacked the set designer. But the audience was riveted from the moment the swashbuckling lead took to the stage, and they were still applauding an hour after the play was over. Cyrano’s witty wordplay, his ability to take on a hundred men at a time in a sword fight, his emphasis on idealism and heroism made an unforgettable impression. The sometimes blustering, all conquering and yet vulnerable hero became a national icon, in a play that has never lost its appeal.
Cyrano is honourable, just, brave, idealistic and loyal. He keeps his promises even when they cause him pain. In politics, Boris is usually a lone voice, until everyone with brains comes round to his way of thinking. He tells the truth, whether it is a popular truth, whether it is to his advantage or not. Like Cyrano, his enthusiasm for a cause might lure him into the error of hyperbole, even wild exaggeration, but his sincerity and integrity can never be doubted. Never daunted, setbacks only spur him on to achieve his targets and fulfill his promises against the odds. Bold in attack, always true to himself, fair minded, his abundant joie de vivre and panache mean that voters (even those of other parties) will always take him to their hearts.
The video clip is from the Oscar winning French film Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Gerard Depardieu.