Casanova Undone - review

casanova undone

They are a dirty bunch, those Brits. I don’t know if the Copenhagen ones are particularly filthy, but I am beginning to think so. Who else hears ‘the penis has a foreskin’ when the actor in fact just said ‘happiness is forsaken’? Does the good old-fashioned mundane word ‘door’ really sound like ‘hore’? Whether hearing-impaired or just plain naughty, the indecent misconceptions of everyday words are present in just about every English-speaking play around.

They are the butt of many a joke in Reumert award-winning director Barry McKenna and That Theatre Company’s version of Dic Edwards’ Casanova Undone too. Here, when an actor hears ‘sores on her labia’ for ‘she says she is from Libya’, the audience roars with gruntled happiness and slap their thighs in foul-mouthed gratification. Who is to say who is the filthier part - the audience or the actors, but it is suffice to say that they deserve each other.

Two hundred years after his death, Casanova is still publically appreciated as a ladies’ man, a seductress of women and the greatest lover that ever lived. In Dic Edwards’ play, he is on his last legs, an old living corpse who used to be an aristocrat, but now he is not. Living in Paris with his wingman Costa (Linda Elvira), Casanova (Ian Burns) finds himself and his Parisian peers persecuted for being hedonists. Unbothered, Casanova wishes to continue his daily rituals of getting through a number of women, but Costa (Mr Foreplay - Casanova hates foreplay, so he makes his sidekick do all the leg work, so he himself can jump in for the big finale) fears they are putting themselves in danger by ignoring the alarming decree for the heads of hedonists.

A young lady, Angelique (Laura Bach) enters the boudoir in search of Casanova’s help. Her mistress is ill and is under the impression that Casanova is the only person on earth able to help her. Mistaking Costa for Casanova and Casanova for Costa’s mother, she begsCosta for help. Edwards’ farce is one about a servant leading his master through a series of misadventures. Deceit, seduction, mistaken identities and rotting reputations follow suit.

 

With a maximum of only three characters present on stage at any time, the actors have a lot resting on their shoulders. Ian Burns, one of That Theatre Company’s founders, is the obnoxious and unlikeable Casanova. He’s highpitched, effeminate, his movements are a little too big, and his articulations are just a little exaggerated. His Casanova is the sort of guy you meet at a party who is too loud for comfort: call the guy OTT and he’s likely to take it as a compliment. But who wants comfort? This is a farce after all, and Burns fills the former ladies’ man’s boots with a ridiculous, loathable yet harmless creature who refuses to lie down without a fight. So to speak.

Although they are not headlining the play, it is the two young women Linda Elvira and Laura Bach that make it altogether enjoyable. Playing Costa and Angelique, their witty, continuous, well-paced and exciting interaction provides the true core of the play. They manage to pull off complicated storylines and talkative acts through their strong acting skills and multi-faceted onstage personas. Angelique and Costa are believable, empathetic, funny, lighthearted and thought provoking, almost making the play’s two hour running time seem appropriate.

Almost, that is. Two hours (albeit with a twenty minute break in between the roughly hour-long acts) makes for a very long farce. Never ones for minimalism, the English shows in town often drone on regardless of their nature, and this one in particular would have benefited from a good half hour being left behind on the pre-production chopping block: a short and sweet farce is much more preferable to a Russian drama length farce.

Having said that, Casanova Undone is perfect if you’re up for a clandestine giggle in the dark. It might even make you think about its underlying philosophical themes after you’ve left the venue. Or think of dirty words that aren’t.
Toyah Hunting

The Copenhagen Post Guide
6-12 March 2009

Casanova (Ian Burns, top) falling asleep on Angelique (Laura Bach) with Costa (Linda Elvira, right) looking on

Dear Copenhagen Post,
IN RESPONSE TO: TOYAH HUNTING'S FLEETING GLIMPSE OF 'CASANOVA UNDONE'
as performed by That Theatre Company in Krudttønden

 

With a name like 'Hunting', I'd have expected Copenhagen Post critic (Toyah Hunting) to have come back with more for the pot than she seems to have bagged in her 'Perfect for a Clandestine Giggle in the Dark' critique of That Theatre's brilliant production of Dic Edward's 'Casanova Undone'.
Even her headline says more of how much she missed than what was there for her gain. Had she allowed herself to see further than her own puritan zeitgeist and caught the gems of dialogue dripping all through Dic Edward's play, perhaps she'd have been led safely out of the mire of her own moral discontent to a better place. Most unfortunate, considering her role as a critic -stick to the play, I'd say, instead of your own script! Had this play been written by a Chaucer, a Shakespeare or a Wilde -or god forbid, an Orton -I wonder if she would have even dared express such views as: 'just about every English-speaking play around is full of indecent misconceptions of everyday words.... and that the 'Casanova Undone audience so roared with gruntled happiness and slapped their thighs in foul-mouthed gratification that she doubted who was the filthier, the audience or the actors -but suffice it to say that they deserve each other'............
Such patronising twaddle, darling!

What I and others I've talked with (including one good English actor friend, who even risked seeing the play TWICE -so amazed he was by it ! ) have experienced from this amazing production, went way, way beyond the 'filthy' words that kept her so much in their grip, she deemed it necessary to ramble on about for at least a third of her article........only later to point out how the play would have benefitted by being chopped down by a half hour (which in her case, would only have led her to miss the point even further.) Here was a world in the palms of good hands -and she let it slip through her fingers!

And nowhere in her critique one single mention of Dic Edwards sublime mastery of language and plot in the hands of one actor and two actresses who all three made it shine! How sad ! Perhaps if she'd dived beneath the sheets of dialogue from the heart and craft of such exceptional players, not only may she have been seduced to orgasm ..... but may even have come for more............. !
But, dear reader, should you dare risk tasting a living Theatre that will inspire, uplift, move and tickle, then THIS opportunity is to be had in THAT Theatre ........... get it while it's still there ! (until 28th. March.)
'all we touch and all we see is all our lives will ever be'

with love,Brian Patterson

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