There is something to be said for a ballet that despite lacking clarity in the narrative can still be pulled off by its dancers and remain a hugely enjoyable visual spectacle.
This is certainly true of Kenneth Tindall’s Casanova for Northern Ballet. Ably supported by a highly talented creative team, Casanova is a glossy, proud and distinctive first full-length narrative ballet from Tindall.
It tells the convoluted tale of history’s most famous libertine, Giacomo Casanova, and his many sexual conquests, starting in high-society and scandal-ridden 18th century Venice and moving on to Paris and then Versailles, were he becomes a protégé of the King's powerful mistress, Madame de Pompadour.
Tindall tries to shine a light on Casanova’s many-faceted and conflicted personality as a young student priest (a brief period soon brought to an end by the temptations of the flesh), musician, writer and all-round Enlightenment man.
The marriage of Christopher Oram’s set and Kerry Muzzey’s often mournful score lifts Casanova to the intense viewing experience it is. It drips with mesmerising images; from the moment the curtain rises, revealing the interior of a church with the incense burner hanging low from the ceiling and razor thin shards of light cutting through to the opulence and grandeur of a Masquerade ball and gambling table.
Act I brings highly stylised church scenes featuring golden pews and demonic nuns. A timid Casanova (Giuliano Contadini) has a brief encounter with the two Savorgnan Sisters; but it’s such a fleeting and neatly choreographed moment it's nowhere near the more sultry, brooding rendez-vous we’re looking for. Abigail Prudames and Minju Kang are beautifully synchronised in their seductiveness, and the scene signals the beginning of Casanova’s series of more sordid encounters.
Oram delivers again with the elegant costumes for the Masquerade ball, channelling Baroque majesty and splendour. It’s Tindall’s first scene using much of the corps and it’s skilfully done. The Act culminates with Casanova's seduction by the mysteriously named M.M (Alien Ramos Betancourt). It’s a passionate and sensual encounter, but also true to ballet's classical roots. These seedy encounters are still full of artistry, and all the sexier for it. It’s a tantalising way to leave the first Act.
Act II focuses on the plight of two key women in Casanova’s life: Bellino (Dreda Blow) and Henriette (Hannah Bateman). Bateman is sublime as a fleeing abused wife, her torment present in every move..
As for Blow, her athletic body contorts itself into all kinds of dramatic poses, as she reveals herself to be a woman in disguise. Her flexibility is used well; and as her bandaged costume was unravelled to reveal her bare chest, there was an audible intake of breath from the first night London audience.
Casanova’s female conquests are alluring, sometimes damaged, sometimes themselves the seductresses; but what of Casanova himself? This was the one thing I felt Tindall failed to address. His character feels pushed from one situation to another, but we never witness anything particularly character-defining.
The final scene brings a sort of apotheosis: brought from the brink of despair at his dissolute and ultimately loveless life, Casanova finds solace in his writing. The figures from his past fleet before his eyes, immortalised in the pages of his successful memoir, which rain on the stage from above.
I felt it didn't quite work - it seemed a rather obvious attempt at a neat wrap up, which for such a complex narrative is a step too far.
|What||Casanova: Northern Ballet Review|
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
09 May 17 – 13 May 17, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells|