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
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
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
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
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
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