Friday, January 29, 2016

'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' by Christopher Hampton

29 January 2016

I've never been to the Donmar Warehouse in London but the live broadcast of the Donmar production of 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' (which I watched at Cineworld in Milton Keynes yesterday) made it look like the perfect intimate venue for this most intimate of plays. The small Donmar stage was arranged as a candlelit drawing room with the 251 audience seats inches away from the actors on three sides, making you feel you were in the room with Valmont and Merteuil – even from the vantage point of the cinema screen. Christopher Hampton's play, based on the 18th century epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, starts as farce and ends as tragedy. I had not seen the play before and I think I have only seen the famous Stephen Frears film once on television (though I would strongly recommend Milos Forman's 1989 film 'Valmont' – an alternative adaptation of the original novel starring Colin Firth and Annette Benning) but the characters, plot and even the dialogue felt incredibly familiar. It's dark and witty and both Janet McTeer (as La Marquise de Merteuil) and Dominic West (as Le Vicomte de Valmont) were excellent. Janet McTeer has a wonderful way of dropping her voice for each bitingly bitchy aside and manages to be simultaneously charming and deeply sinister. The cinema screening featured a live interval interview with Christopher Hampton and the director Josie Rourke in which Rourke entertainingly got a fit of giggles. Her production has a fin de siècle feel, anticipating the coming French revolution by starting in grandeur and heading towards decay as more and more paintings are removed from the walls and the furniture is covered by dust sheets. But it was the acting that shone and you can sample the delicious vocal performances with a free download of members of the Donmar cast reading some of the letters from the original novel at

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