Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Posted by Laurence Green

Laurence Green reviews Josie Rourke's Les Liaisons Dangereuses, adapted from Choderlos de Laclos's scandalous novel by Christopher Hampton.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Sex, intrigue and betrayal in pre-revolutionary France make a combustible mix in Josie Rourke's first rate revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Donmar Warehouse), adapted from Choderlos de Laclos's scandalous novel by Christopher Hampton and marking the play's thirtieth anniversary.

Former lovers, the Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont now compete in games of seduction and revenge. Merteuil incites Valmont to corrupt the innocent Cecile de Volanges before her wedding night, but Valmont has targeted the peerlessly virtuous and beautiful  Madame de Tourvel. While these merciless aristocrats toy with others' hearts and reputations their own turn out to prove more fragile than the supposed.

This witty and stylish production both tantalises and grips in equal measure, building to a powerful climax. Director Josie Rourke does a great job of conveying the sumptuous atmosphere of 18th-century France on the small Donmar stage - Tom Scott's traditional costumes gleam under dozens of candles and twinkling chandeliers, especially those of the women in their delicate pink, blue and cream gowns and peignoirs, framed against scuffed walls and various portraits. It is somewhat ironic to remember that in seven years time the self-centred lives of these aristocrats will be swallowed up by the French Revolution.

But the play's strong sense of authenticity is mostly conveyed by the impeccable performances of a stellar cast. Janet McTeer is perfect as the scheming and manipulative Marquise de Merteuil, statuesque languid with eyes that flash deep intelligence, yet with a well-disguised vulnerability. Dominic West utterly persuades as the Vicomte de Valmont, the other half of the wicked partnership, whose downfall is to succumb to genuine love. Elaine Cassidy makes a strong impression as the puritanical Madme de Tourvel, while Morfydd Clark is delicious as the innocent Cecile and Adjoah Andoh is fine as the abandoned Cecile's mother, as is Una Stubbs as Valmont's aunt. Edward Holcroft provides colourful support as Merteuil's gauche lover.

The shoe provides a rich and rewarding evening in the theatre and deserves a transfer to a larger West End theatre.

Runs until February 13
Box office: 0844 871 7624

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