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158

Casanova will cheer me up. “One ticket for Casanova, please.” I duly join a long and excited queue.

This Casanova has currently set up his bedroom at the Space on Niddry Street, or rather it is that Martin Foreman’s biographical play “Casanova Dreaming” has. In 2014, I had been drawn to Foreman’s similar overview of Baron Corvo, “Now We Are Pope,” the staging of which had by chance corresponded with me going through that Corvo phase that I guess every serious writer needs to experience at some point. I am not nearly so versed in Giacomo Casanova. I gather that he was essentially the William Shakespeare of making love. One of those greedy eighteenth-century womanisers, Casanova resembles Edinburgh’s own James Boswell but without the inevitable Scottish guilt. Both men had left behind enormous and detailed testimonies of their rovings, for which historians, and the prurient, are today immensely grateful.

So we meet Casanova and get the gist of what he was like (incidentally, Casanova had started out in Venice, where Corvo had ended up dying). The most innovative feature of “Casanova Dreaming” is its format. The golden boy is naturally in bed but, for once, he has something else on his mind: a crowded premonitory dream in which his aged future self, his future lovers, and the odd fellow duellist all congregate to chide him for his fickleness with women.

This device works a lot better than it might sound and it will become airborne despite its cumbersomeness. In a way, it resembles a kind of psychological science-fiction, in which a mind impossibly rifles through memories that have not yet been made. A literalist might reply that the elder Casanova is in fact experiencing this dream, perhaps as a dream-within-a-dream.

Casanova junior is played by Patrick Bergamo, as a dazed Adonis who is stumbling scandalised around his boudoir. He is always too friendly in the end to throw anybody out. Senior, on the other hand, is brought to life by Creighton King, as a powdered intriguer who is too louche to fulfil his educational mission with any great urgency. The oak is ultimately unable to admonish the sapling.

At one point, an angry future-ex accuses Casanova of having a small penis. It must have been therefore an overproduction of pheromones that did everything for him. Yet I was uncomfortable with the play slandering the greatest lover in history quite so casually and, unless it can cite some hard evidence, so to speak, I suggest that it would be fairer to drop this line.

Another criticism of this play is that it was occasionally too quiet. Some of the ensemble seemed to be speaking only to Casanova rather than to Casanova and to us. I guess, however, that he can still turn heads in this way.

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