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October 21, 2007
The point of this blog entry is to respond to Pete Kirwan's review of Casanova. I thought of stamping my foot to signal that i disagree with said review, but then thought a blog might be a more appropriate way of explaining why I thought Told by an Idiot's Casanova was something special.
Before seeing the play, I was already thinking about it thanks to Alex's excellent blogentry: "What is wrong with being sexy". To me the answer was at first an obvious: "nothing", i was shocked by Carmichael's assertion that the original sex scenes in the play (subsequently removed) made her feel and look "like a victim". After reading the guardian interview this was taken from, I felt a lot more ready to both watch the play and adopt a "i might not agree with what you say but i'll defend to the death your right to say it" attitude (to quote carmichael in the play).
This is why I do get annoyed when I read such comments as this: "Casanova is stripped of the guile and sexual manipulation that one imagines, and instead becomes largely passive". Having a female Casanova who spent the whole play simply bonking everyone she met wouldn't have justified the sex change in my opinion. As Carmichael says: guile and sexual manipulation are the domain of Don Juan who "probably hated women" not of Casanova. Whether male or female, this is a character who loved everyone he/she dealt with and provided each with their heart's desire. I might add that being "passive" is in a sense somewhat to the point.
I am not the greatest fan of Carol Ann Duffy, but i nevertheless think she sums up the ideas behind the play rather neatly here: "She wants to please and she wants to be kind, but she never sees the consequences of what she's done. It's only when she falls in love and is badly hurt herself that it all comes home to roost. For me, the whole thing is about how and who we love, and about how love can't be bidden - it must be true even though that sometimes hurts."
Mr Kirwan might not have cared what happened to Casanova, but I did. Her feminity gave added pathos to the don giovanni representation: "she!" Casanova cries in vain. I can't speak for the rest of the audience but Casanova's juvenile vulnerability and generosity are what made her to me that "interesting and sympathetic" character he could not see. The moment that marked me more than the birth and subsequent abandonment of the child was the meeting between Casanova and her sister - conducted entirely in Italian. The humour created by the translating narrator intensified the gap between the siblings, to me it was heart-wrenching.
This is not to say that the production as a whole was flawless. I expected the worse after the rather dodgy start to the play (which included the worst staging of a faint i've seen in a long time) and at first i rather felt that the action was drowned by the set. However there was still a lot to get excited about: the abundance of languages flying across the stage (some translated to humorous effect) as well as accents, the company's playful approach to props and effects of narration are stand out examples.
I will stop ranting now. I hope Mr Kirwan will not take any of this personally, he just seems to be the only person posting on Warwick blogs on WAC productions and I don't want an outsider to think his is the only opinion.