Preview: Casanova, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

What if Casanova got knocked up?
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The Independent Culture

The playwright, poet and writer Carol Ann Duffy has transformed the great womaniser, Casanova, into a female man-eater.

This is not the first time that Duffy has reinvented the male archetype. In her 1999 collection of poetry, The World's Wife, she takes famous male figures and retells the story from a woman's perspective, often their wives.

This new stage version of Casanova, in collaboration with the theatre company Told by an Idiot, takes its lead from the writings of Giacomo Casanova, who wrote a 12-volume kiss-and-tell autobiography, Histoire de ma Vie, first fully published in 1794, detailing his sexual adventures. It also borrows from Federico Fellini's 1976 feature film starring Donald Sutherland.

Hayley Carmichael, Told by an Idiot's artistic director, plays the heroic seductress, in a semi-state of 18th-century undress. Her Casanova is forced to deal with issues that her male counterpart never had to, such as pregnancy. "She has to work out how to continue leading the life of Casanova after she has a child," says Carmichael. "It is about trying to ring the changes with each encounter that she has, rather than putting her in a pigeonhole. It might be about falling for the first man because he is gorgeous, but it's not all overtly sexual. I seduce an excited audience by playing a violin concert."

Carmichael has devised and performed in most of the Told by an Idiot productions, including I'm a Fool to Want You, based on the life and work of the French cult novelist Boris Vian, and Little Fantasy, about a dysfunctional family.

"We don't dwell on how we are going to play a part because it happens spontaneously as we write the piece in the room, and it changes day by day," she says. "We approached Carol Ann with a draft and gave her the freedom to write what she liked. She wrote a fairy tale, and she is not precious and has let us play with her story. Her poetic narrative is so beautiful that we have kept more of it in than we had anticipated."



7 to 29 September (0113-213 7700; www.wyp.org.uk)

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