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Preview: Dangerous Liaisons
I am intrigued to see how the cast will handle the second half of this play. The preview only included five of the scenes in Christina Drollas’ adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, yet the essential vitality and characterisation of the play was captured effortlessly from the first moment. The play follows the convoluted relationships of high society in eighteenth century France, unveiling corrupted morals and shallow living. The drama is shaped by the treacherous Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont, who flirt with each other using competitive ploys to degrade members of their society through sex and lies.
Christina Drollas has deftly handled the epistolary form of the original novel, channelling de Laclos’ text into comic, light-hearted dialogue that reflects the libertine, scheming characters of La Marquise and Le Vicomte, played by Alice Porter and Ziad Samaha respectively. Indeed, I was impressed by the way she has further added humour to the play through witty direction, lightening the sometimes repetitive and drawn out nature of the epistolary novel.
The second half takes on an ever darker tone as we lose the novelty of the characters’ entertaining melodrama. Christina Drollas assured me that the tone of the production reflects this turn of events, and that she has aimed to bring out the overall ‘tragedy’ of the novel, as well as to underline the thematic importance of religion. Of the two key characters, La Marquise and Le Vicomte, she described the former as the hardest to perfect. It was, she said, the obscured ‘humanity’ of La Marquise which proved the most challenging trait to reveal, and the poignant truth that, despite her callous façade, she is in love with Le Vicomte all along.
Drollas has two valuable tools at her disposal: an extensive budget and a large and talented cast with many familiar faces. Designer Emma Glaser informed us that the play will adhere to its contemporary setting, with costume and set design reflecting the life and manners of eighteenth century bourgeoisie. Interestingly, music will play a key part in the performance, to enhance the alternations in mood between scenes. Dangerous Liaisons will undoubtedly deliver an absorbing performance when it hits the stage next week.