Sunday, 7 February 2016

THEATRE | LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES

Long overdue review as I have now seen this sumptuous production twice. Following Splendour and Teddy Ferrara, it was only right that I continued my Donmar winning streak by watching their next offering, Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Immediately after seeing Teddy Ferrara, I went online to book tickets for this but was shocked to find that the entire run had already sold out. I'm not sure what made it so popular as I had no prior knowledge of the original French novel it was based on or any previous theatre adaptations of it. Luckily the Donmar do this awesome thing where they release £10 front row tickets every Monday, but you do have to get in pretty quick because there are only a couple of seats available for each date. When the box office lady asked my friend and I which date we wanted tickets for, we were like 'Any date, any time!' because we were pretty desperate and lo and behold we got tickets!

I'm always incredibly interested to see how they transform the Donmar stage every production, I find that they are always so creative with decorating the small space. Upon entering and locating my seat, I observe that we've been transported back to the late 1700s, the setting resembling a beautifully furnished room in perhaps a French palace, complete with an ornate piano to one side and huge oil paintings leaning around the walls. Fluttery plastic sheets have been draped over the furniture but as soon as the play begins, the actors enter in magnificent period costumes and pull off each sheet with a flourish, thus revealing each piece of furniture/prop, all the while singing acapella harmonies as they do so. Turns out this happens in every transition between scenes as they swiftly move the props around to set the next scene, which I thought was beautifully done and very effective. Les Liaisions Dangereuses tells the story of the Marquise de Merteuil (portrayed by Janet McTeer) and the Vicomte de Valmont (Dominic West) who used to be lovers but terminated their relationship to preserve their unique friendship. They both thrive off playing games and manipulating others, sharing and planning their cruel endeavours and not resting until their target has been thoroughly humiliated. This particular day the Vicomte explains to the Marquise that the next victim he plans on seducing is the extremely virtuous and ultimately married Madame de Tourvel (Elaine Cassidy), who is currently staying with his aunt while her husband is away. The Marquise observes that it seems to be an impossible task but in pointing this out only makes the Vicomte all the more determined. Meanwhile, the Marquise wants to corrupt a certain young girl named Cécile de Volanges (Morfydd Clark), whose mother has betrothed to the Marquise' recent ex-lover, as revenge on him for dumping her. The two discover that Cécile is secretly in love with her music tutor, the Chevalier Danceny (Edward Holcroft) and together they pretend to help the young lovebirds when in fact they are ultimately using them for their own benefit as part of a bigger plan. 

Let me start of by saying that I love watching characters with villainous traits but are ultimately more complex than one would initially seem. Janet McTeer is a force to be reckoned with as the leading lady, she holds herself and moves about the stage so regally and speaks with a deep sultry voice that reminds me altogether of Cate Blanchett in Queen Elizabeth. On top of this she gives the Marquise such a calm and icy demeanour that it's all too believable that she is a master manipulator right down to her very bones. If you ask me she would be more than capable of holding this entire production by herself, she's just that good. However, Dominic West is more than a suitable counterpart as the dashing Vicomte (totally off topic but remember that time I bumped into him in Marks and Spencer haha), and exudes such charisma that I'm sure he almost has the audience playing into his hands. I also loved Elaine Cassidy and Morfydd Clark as Madame de Tourvel and Cécile respectively, they both portrayed their roles perfectly and I find nailing supporting parts all too essential for a story to be translated to the audience successfully though it's often an aspect that's overlooked. Personally I was excited to see Edward Holcroft perform live, I loved him in his recent stint as Ben Whishaw's co-star in the television series London Spy, and though his role as Danceny wasn't as big as I'd hoped, he was still pretty good and a particular fencing scene was so action packed, it almost had me fearing for my life in the front row (how strong are their grips on those swords and are they really as sharp as they look?) hehe. Another thing I found pretty cool was that candles were the main source of illumination for the production. Not only did the chandeliers and candelabras make for fantastic props but lighting more candles or oppositely extinguishing some, was sufficient to create the intended mood for a scene and made for a refreshingly different viewing experience, adding a perfect old-fashioned touch (also snuffing out candles created smoke that factored into the ambience well). My favourite thing about Les Liaisons however, had to be the costumes (oh fashion blogger cliché)! They were just gooorgeous. The ladies all had different but equally beautiful dresses that spoke for each of their characters, all complete with waist-cinching corsets and poofy skirts that spilled over the chairs every time they sat down. The guys definitely weren't out-shined, just look at the embroidery detail on Dominic West's velvet jacket, swooooon. Also those wigs looked so majestic yet entirely realistic.

So I think Les Liaisons is my favourite play that I've watched at the Donmar in a while, I really enjoyed watching the Marquise's and the Vicomte's interactions, their outrageous scheming and the quick witted dialogue they bounced off one another was entirely too delicious and although the story progressed to be quite tragic in the end, overall it was a pretty funny play and had the audience members in stitches. There was even one moment when the actors had to evidently pause and wait for the crowd's giggles to subside. I took my mum to see it the second time around and she pointed out that it was easy for her to understand the dialogue (English is her second language) and the plot wasn't overly complicated. That being said, it never got boring despite it being a very dialogue heavy play. Also it was quite refreshing to watch a period style play (I adore period films), I think the last one I saw must have been The Duchess of Malfi and that was two years ago now. Afterwards I also met and got a photo with Edward Holcroft who was oh so lovely, hoping to see him in more things in the future.


Les Liaisons Dangereuses is at the Donmar Warehouse until 13th February 2016. All ticket info here.

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