Northern Ballet: Casanova at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh Review

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Reviewed by Deborah Mackenzie

This first full length narrative ballet by Kenneth Tindall is inspired by Ian Kelley’s biography and Casanova’s own memoirs, combined with Kerry Muzzey’s insistent cinematic score is something you will never forget.

Casanova’s womanising reputation is something everyone knows, but he is a man with many facets, that surprised me as I learnt he was a trainee cleric, gambler, scam artist, scofflaw and writer. He wrote satires and his memoires, a whopping twelve volumes, he fought duels and escaped from prison more than once.

The set and costume designed by Christopher Oram took a mere stage and turned it into something you would only expect to see at the movies! As the curtain lifted we were transported into a church, with huge golden pillars that towered above the stage, the story starts with Casanova seeking a career as clergy. Each scene magically changed, by a twinkle of an eye as dancers gracefully manoeuvre props into place, taking us from church, to street and into the palace.

Alistair West’s atmospheric lighting brought out the golden hue of the opulence and wealth of the church and palace, yet when Casanova’s life was down in luck, the lighting cast shadows and gloominess.

The costumes were magnificent! The church scene of the cardinal in bright red, the nuns with their large head cornette and monk attire. Many of the costumes were stripped down versions of full gowns, bodices, jackets and breeches worn by nobility; powdered wigs, stocks and lace underwear under half hooped skirts was extremely sensual and provocative. These costumes allowed for the intricate movement from the dancers and for each beautiful pose to be seen.

The music, performed by a live orchestra by Kerry Muzzey, a film and modern classical composer whose music can be heard on both the big and small screen. Casanova was his first full-length ballet and first live theatrical work.  I have never heard anything like this before in theatre as it brought the story a live, speaking the unsaid words for the dancers as they visually spoke.  It was a marriage of sound and movement.

Giuliano Contadini as Casanova made an impression from the first moment he arrived late to mass in the first scene. His strength and movements as a dancer were a pleasure to watch, but over and above just dancing, he became Casanova on stage. All the dancers were flawless, beautiful and performed their parts effortlessly. Some of the dances involved props, gravity defying poses that they made look so easy; yet the skill and professionalism shone through.

My daughter and I were mesmerised from the start to the end. The story was easy to follow, but would advise reading the Acts beforehand so that you can understand what is going on, because I never realised what an interesting person Casanova was. We spoke about the dances, the costumes and set all the way home: we were on a ballet high, something I would never have thought possible.

Rating: 5/5

Tickets cost from £16 to £37 (booking fees may apply).

Northern Ballet’s Casanova is at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh from 23-25 March 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.edtheatres.com or call the box office on 0131 529 6000.

Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9FT | 0131 529 6000

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