Review: Casanova charms at Sheffield Lyceum

Giulano Contadini as Casnova and Dreda Blow as Bellino in Casanova at  Sheffield Lyceum. Photo by Caroline Holden.
Giulano Contadini as Casnova and Dreda Blow as Bellino in Casanova at Sheffield Lyceum. Photo by Caroline Holden.

A world premiere touring production by Northern Ballet, with live music by Northern Ballet Sinfonia, is on at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre.

It’s the first full-length work choreographed by Kenneth Tindall, a premier dancer with Northern Ballet before retiring in 2015. He worked with Ian Kelly, the author of an acclaimed biography of Casanova, to produce the original scenario. Their collaboration underpins the coherence, historical detail and sheer inspiration of this show.

At the centre is the complex character of Casanova, a man of many talents, driven by an insatiable curiosity about every aspect of human experience.

At the beginning he is given a forbidden book by a renegade priest. This brings him into conflict with the reactionary powers of the church, but also opens doors into more liberated areas of society. Gradually he emerges as a kind of Everyman, tormented by his errors, and brought to the edge of despair, but also keen to pass on his experience to others.

Giuliano Contadini performs the central role with hypnotic grace and total conviction. The other main dancers establish their characters with clarity and humour. There are many poignant and dramatic moments.

Although the ballet’s momentum is driven by the story, there is ample opportunity for all the dancers to perform relaxed, sinuous, almost acrobatic routines which leave one in awe of their skill.

A marvellous set, inventive costumes, a cinematic score and atmospheric lighting create a distinctive, decadent, sensual, unsettling world.

As well as being a hymn to reading, the show is also a hymn to writing – as becomes clear in the astonishing image at the end.

Casanova is on until Saturday, April 1.