Wednesday, 30 December 2015

'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' at the Donmar Warehouse

The final theatre trip of the year was to see the new production of 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' at the Donmar - you've probably seen the film but have you seen the play that started it all? No, neither had I so this was a first for me. The cast for this production are led by Janet McTeer and Dominic West and add in Una Stubbs and you know you're in for a treat. I've seen all of them on stage before (and on telly and in films) and enjoyed them every time.

It's set shortly before the French Revolution and demonstrates the morals of the time, with gossip and intrigue being king, sex a devalued commodity unless it is with the un-reachable and nothing matters more than winning at any cost. It's terribly cynical and the mores of the time destroys lives as innocents fall foul of the seducers who treat the encounters as meaningless. Until they discover it's not meaningless after all and that's when the consequences start mounting up.

The Marquise de Merteuil (McTeer) and Vicomte de Valmont (West) are fomer lovers who challenge each other in their sexual conquests. Merteuil wants him to seduce the young Cecile (Morfydd Clark) before her marriage to an enemy but Valmont wants the bigger challenge of the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Elaine Cassidy) who is staying with his aunt (played by Una Stubbs). Valmont ends up pursuing both - and gaining both - while Merteuil seduces Cecile's chaste young lover. While the intrigues are fun and the suggestion is that everyone is part of the same game, it's actually pretty unpleasant and that is what the play exposes. But it's the innocents that pay the price.

I enjoyed the play with it's sparse sets and constant movement keeping it fully energised throughout. There are some laugh out loud moments and some more thoughtful sections. The audience collapsed towards the end of the first half when Cecile naively asks Valmont if her husband-to-be would appreciate that she's been learning all the sex-tricks Valmont can teach her when someone in the front row broke out in raucous laughter at the absurdity of it and everyone joined in, including Dominic West! It's good fun with a darker underbelly.

The cast were excellent and I particularly liked Janet McTeer as the butter-wouldn't-melt Marquise who could out-cruel Cruella DeVille any day of the week. She was great fun with her tongue stuck firmly in her cheek for most of the play until it becomes deadly towards the end. Dominic West was also great fun as our debonaire seducer who always gets his woman but doesn't judge the consequences too well. I also liked Adjoa Andoh as Cecile's mother who came across as very realistic rather than a cartoon. Una Stubbs was lovely as the elderly, rich aunt who acts as a catalyst for her nephew's seduction of Madame de Tourvel. It's always a pleasure to see Una on stage.

The Donmar often sells out before the shows begin so I don't know if there are any tickets left for this production but, if you can, go and see it - it's well worth it!

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