What to say of you liked it
A lavish drama recounting the daring lascivious exploits of Giovanni Giacome Casanova the most famous, or perhaps notorious, seducer in the history of humanity (apart from Ken Barlow, of course).
What to say of you didn’t like it
A convoluted catastrophe, which aims to dazzle the viewer’s critical perception with lavish costumes and breathless and frequent sex scenes to distract from the vacuous drama and cowardly contemporary dialogue.
What was good about it?
• The lead characters were of either a renowned high pedigree (Peter O’Toole as the elderly weary Casanova) or very promising young-ish thespians such as David Tennant as the young Casanova, Laura Fraser as Henriette, Rose Byrne as Edith and Nina Sosanya as Bellino.
• The dialogue wasn’t mired in 18th century circumlocution every schoolkid in the country developed a phobia to while studying endless Shakespeare plays at school, and instead ensured a brisk pace with accessible phraseology (“Are you following me? People will talk.” and “Notches on a bedpost.”) and very witty modern wordplay (As Bellino protests to Casanova she is really a man: “I’ve been inspected by the bishop” “The bishop’s been celibate for 53 years so he wouldn’t know the difference.”) But with Russell T Davies at the helm, it’s a boon we’ve come to expect.
• The vividly coloured rich costumes that may be hopelessly historically inaccurate, but add to the sense of playfulness. It was also a good idea for the primary players such as Casanova and Henriette to be dressed in the brightest tunics and dresses of blues, greens, reds and yellows, while more peripheral characters have a paler garb.
• The flippant nature of the script whereby Casanova communicates his thoughts to the audience with theatrical asides, works very well. And the sporadic fantasy sequences such as when Casanova is dressed by his disembodied clothes flying on to his body like the opening credits in Da Ali G Show.
• The sex scenes that while resembling something out of a Carry On film with vigorous thrusting motions and little flesh exposed, contribute to the delightfully bawdy atmosphere established elsewhere.
What was bad about it?
• The picaresque nature of the script leaves the impression of rushing through Casanova’s life like contestants on Supermarket Sweep, trying to cram as
much drama into the hour as possible while Dale Winton observes archly from the wings. This was most potently felt during Casanova’s romancing of fake castrato Bellino whom he seemed to make famous, seduce and arrange to marry within about a week, depositing the notion of superficiality and a lack of depth in any number of characters apart from Casanova and Hernriette.
• While well-acted, the humorous cameo appearances by figures more associated with comedies gave a slight artificial feel to the drama as more time was spent noting: “Look it’s Mark Heap from Green Wing and Look Around You as a puritanical schoolmaster.”; “There’s Matthew Holness star of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace as
a landlord.”; “And isn’t that the Fast Show’s Simon Day?” It was particularly keenly felt for Matt Lucas’s role as camp Venetian nobleman Villiers, who seemed to have Andy’s laziness for walking on his own two feet and Little Britain catchphrases in his dialogue (“He’s gorgeous!”).