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Dangerous Liaisons we would urge you to make!

Review by Paul Nelson

ANYONE who has ever wondered why people meddle in other people's affairs and what they get out of it need look no further than Compagnie Sublime's production of Dangerous Liaisons, the new translation of Les Liaisons Dangereuse which hit the Fringe last week.

Peter Mandelson, Alistair Campbell, spin doctors, gossip columnists, these are people who hold only a little of what is of interest in themselves but they become almost superhuman reveling in the scandal and discomfort they cause to others.

The reason, as propounded in this production, is a vicarious sexual charge. To paraphrase what used to be said of any professional, those who can do it, the others teach it. For 'teach' read 'meddle' one way or another.

Highly sensual and more than sexually aware, the Marquise Delphine de Montreuil and Vicomte Louis Valmont are a voluptuous couple who, one feels, really ought to marry and settle down.

The fact is, they would probably choose to settle down somewhere cosy, preferably in the full glare of the public eye.

In that sense, they are the Hamiltons, the Posh and Becks of the world they inhabit.

Delphine has been married, has been through the mill of virginal couch, coy flirtation and courtship, spectacular marriage, adultery, and now is really keen on seeing to it that others learn from her experiences.

If they are young, they must be deflowered and encouraged to follow in her footsteps; if older, then they must be targeted for being icons of respectability and brought down.

With all this on her mind, shared by Louis, whose own libido is constantly bubbling, there is little time for their own mutual dalliances, no matter how much Louis would desire it.

Delphine it turns out is merely turned on by power.

They single out a debutante, Cecile de Volange, new to society and under the ever-watchful eye of her mother, and Hortense de Tourvel, a settled lady of a certain age.

Louis is to bring about their downfall and when they get into worrying situations and need a counsellor, Delphine will be their confidante and advise them as to what they should do for the best, thus ensuring their complete degradation. What a satisfactory project!

This diabolical meddling in the affairs of others, and innocents to boot, is presented not with all its black heartedness and bile boiling all over the stage but, a stroke of genius by the director, with a light touch as though Cupid himself, with their interests at heart, is waving his wand, or whatever it is he waves.

In the hands of these two, a bow and arrow would be too dangerous.
Consequently, you get an evening of light, frothy entertainment as you revel in the filthy deeds the schemers get up to and share their delight at the misfortune of others.

Instead of shouting shame, villain, and hissing and booing, you find yourself wreathed in smiles with schadenfreude and sitting at the edge of your seat waiting for the next thrust of the deadly knife.

The two actors pick up this theme with such an extraordinary amount of gusto that I personally wouldn't tell either of them a thing, not even what I had for breakfast, so lethal do they seem.

Both are excellently horrid and they are set like rare jewels in a rich and ornate milieu. The rest of society, or rather the bits of it we are allowed to meet, rally round the flag treading politely and trustingly along the road to hell that has been paved for them. What an evening!

As the schemers, the snakelike Delphine is played with a sinister delight that actually makes her too sexually attractive for the good of the men in the audience, and the creepy Louis oozes cloying charm that many of those men will find, and probably use, as a role model. What a bastard.

To a certain degree, they do get their comeuppances, but it is hard to fight the almost irresistible urge to throw something at them at curtain call time.

Now that's called acting!

Led by Comtesse Charlotte de Rosamonde, her house party, at which most of the shenanigans take place, becomes one of those events you dare not leave in case someone reveals something about you, probably something untrue, and you would not turn your back in case a knife found its way into it.

The innocents are charming, the elderly concerned for the young and vice versa, and the whole cauldron of social manners seethes away delightfully played by a very young company.

They are so young that you wonder how they managed to cram so much style into the play and where they acquired it. That must also be laid at the door of the director.

The pace of the play is exactly right, its ups and downs perfectly timed. Compagnie Sublime ought to be more than just pleased with themselves.

It is a pure evening of theatre you rarely get these days. The audience and I were in the hands of the company completely, which is as it should be.

I recommend Dangerous Liaisons unreservedly.

Dangerous Liaisons (based on Les Liaisons Dangereuse by Choderlos de Laclos) Translated by Dominic Druce with Emily Hobbs and Camilla Mathias, Adapted by Martin Cort. Directed by Martin Cort (assistant Melissa Morgan), Designer Jonathan Boast (assistant Nathalie Frost), Lighting Designer Alex Passmore (assistant Peter Coakley), Costumes Anne-Marie Norton. WITH: Tessa Gallagher (Comtesse Charlotte de Rosemonde), Robert Armes (Vicomte Louis Valmont), Camilla Mathias (Marquise Delphine de Merteuil), Elaine Coxall (Madame Marie de Volanges), Morven Macbeth (Mademoiselle Cecile de Volanges), Adrian Reilly (Professeur Henri Danceny), Emily Hobbs (Madame Hortense de Tourvel), Rowan Brooks (Monsieur Georges Prevan/Azalan), Wendy Windle (Emilie/Maid), Leo Faulker (Marcel/Doctor). Presented by Compagnie Sublime, Produced by Emily Hobbs and Camilla Mathias at Pentameters Theatre, The Three Horseshoes, 28 Heath Street, Hampstead, London N3. Tickets 020 7435 3648

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