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October 26, 2007
This is very much a first draft. I am supposed to be writing a french review of this concentrating on the dancing but i wanted to get some thoughts out first:
The story goes as this: Queenie is living with her clown boyfriend Burrs. Things are going badly in their relationship, that very morning they had a fight involving a kitchen knife. Yes, that bad. Queenie thinks a good solution is to throw a party. Her friend Kate (friend in the loose term) arrives with her new suave boyfriend Mr. Black. To cut a long story short Queenie and Black are drawn to one another whilst Kate and Burrs get it on. Eventually Burrs’ jealousy takes over and he attempts to shoot Black before getting killed himself.
Joseph Mancure March’s The Wild Party will already be familiar to Warwick audiences thanks to the recent MTW staging of Andrew Lippa’s version. Up and coming multi-talented hybrid Rosie Kay has now brought to the Arts Centre her own version. There’s singing, there’s dancing, there’s acting, yet the flavour is definitely different from the musical.
Audience members are greeted by a smoky stage already inhabited by the four performers and three musicians. Chairs wear bras and briefs, lipsticked champagne glasses litter the edge of the stage, a chandelier dangles over the pianist’s head. This set up, complete with the background of syncopating jazz, remains the same throughout the show, including the interval. The players switch from audience interaction, improvisation and impromptu dancing as “themselves”, with their “in character” parts where the text of the show is recited. Almost all of this text is taken directly from the poem. An example of free verse undermining and at the same time highlighting form it might be said.
The show running only seventy minutes it could be argued that an interval is superfluous. It seems the idea was to ask: when does one cease to play? Even as they pretend to be themselves in the interval, traces of characters linger, Nick Carter/Burrs clownishly cackles as he imitates the women dancing, Morgan Cloud/Black and Rosie Kay/Queenie indulge in some on-stage flirting. This abundance of energy and constant need to perform becomes a tad overwhelming, but eventually to effect: Burrs the clown eventually confiscates the drums in the second half and the silence speaks volumes of his anguish. This in turn employs the music most effectively for Queenie and Black’s lovemaking. The relocated drums find their footing lightly at first before building to a crescendo, accompanied finally by the trumpet and keys.
The show captures the fractured world of the poem admirably. The
four dancers through a series of portés capture the whirlwind of a decadent, yet ultimately superficial party. As the arches transform into angles so we see the framework explode with the accidental death of Burrs and the show’s sudden ending: the performers receive a blackout at last.
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.