5 July 2015

Wondering on one history


Casanova is a legend, of course, a challenge for men and a dream for women. I guess. We went to see Canberra Rep's take on Casanova last night and it was a frolic (labelled "fast, fun, unforgettable") but even touching. They did a great job, busy, interesting, convincing, entertaining, great costumes and stage set and lots of that blast from the past, the rotating stage. It all worked. I'm not so much one for laughing at all this, but I admired it and it got me musing over Giacomo Casanova and the story. The show is presented as the old Casanova recounting his story to a chambermaid. There's even a seduction by the old man but it's more education than flirtation. I was taken by the young and old Casanovas and I could imagine they were one character. I even thought I could see similar facial structures (Megan doesn't agree). The young Casanova was attractive, energetic, playful and surprisingly respectful. It's not a picture we have. Core to the plot was a love story for Henriette who also rose from poverty and was locked into high marriage and duty. Marrying for love is a modern, post-romantic obsession of wealth and I wonder if this twisted the history we are presented with. A number of modern obsessions appear in the performance, even gay marriage, although the castrato who GC falls for turns out to be woman in disguise and amusingly GC had guessed that at the start. There's a duel with Henriette's wealthy, powerful, high-born husband and several scenes of debauchery and a coronary-inducing confession and a prison scene. But there's attractive honour and dignity in Casanova's love for Henriette and his advice to an illegitimate son (who he'd influenced without conscious guidance) and even a certain decency in his sexual conquests. This is the attractive side of GC and it was offered here. There's a scene where he is saying men don't talk with an implication of his awareness of, and attractiveness to, women. This attractiveness is intriguing and central. So, despite his notoriety, he's presented here as not just the raw and disrespectful seducer. I'm wary of believing history when portrayed in film and the like so I downloaded his memoirs (free online) but they are lengthy and I know I will never do other than skim some pages. But in the search, I learnt that "Casanova" (also Don Juan) as an adjective dates to Victorian days and I expect that's the source of our image of GC. The warning at the start of my downloaded "Rare unabridged London edition of 1894" typifies it: "Transcriber's Note: These memoires were not written for children, they may outrage readers also offended by Chaucer, La Fontaine, Rabelais and The Old Testament D.W." So, Casanova continues to appeal and to fascinate and the Canberra Rep performance did an excellent job in continuing that fascination in this town.

Casanova was directed Jarrad West for the Canberra Repertory Society. The play was adapted by Mark Kilmurry from the screenplay by Russell T Davies. The performers were Ben Russell (Casanova), Tony Turner (Older Casanova), Amy Dunham (Henriette), Riley Bell (Rocco), Steph Roberts (Edith), Bojana Kos (Bellino), Chris Zuber (Grimani) with an ensemble comprising Kate Blackhurst, Geoffrey Borny, Liz Bradley, Kayla Ciceran, Alice Ferguson, Sam Hannan-Morrow, Bradley McDowell, Emily Ridge, Teig Sadhana.

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