based on the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos adapted by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones with Keiron Self, Lynne Seymour and Mappa Mundi.
Tour to 27 June 2010.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 May at Greenwich Theatre.
Pointedly energetic portrayal of all being fair in a battle of the sexes..
Teenage Cécile would never have left the convent if she’d read Choderlos de Laclos’s 1782 novel, in which her entrapment within a network of sexual revenge leads to her debauching. Unless, of course, she’d read Denis Diderot’s 1760s novel La Religieuse, in which case she’d have been aware nuns were just the people to avoid.
Yet vibrant Welsh company Mappa Mundi show it’s not all loss for Cécile. Lizzie Rogan’s earnest, quizzical naivety changes after a forced sexual advance from middle-aged sexual predator Valmont into a bodily joyous existence. The girl once shocked when her legs were on view to a lover becomes a young woman happy to surrender her rump to Valmont’s quill, giggling with abandon as he writes an innuendo-filled letter to his other prey, the puritanical Madame de Tourvel.
Director Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones provides a then-and-now palimpsest, aided by Carl Davies’ sets and a musical score combining baroque ceremonial with a modern beat, as movement mixes classical formality with arrogant assertion.
Black predominates in costumes of the vultures around Cécile, who’s separated by her lighter yellow shades. People tread formally-shaped floors but there’s a rosily high-flush to the rooms, reflected sometimes in Valmont’s costume.
Laclos’ epistolary structure is principally reflected in the fluidity of location, as characters tell their stories, or yank the innocent into their plots. Plans are announced apparently in the presence of those they’ll affect, emphasising the meshes being drawn around them.
Keiron Self gives Valmont a coarse brutality, while Lynne Seymour as his rival conspirator Merteuil is a subtle creation, similar in appearance to Cécile’s mother, whom she outwits, both bearing red-blush spots on their cheeks in a surface-obsessed society.
The inventive production doesn’t underplay the novel’s sombre elements; Valmont ends lying by his other victim, the broken-hearted de Tourvel (a fine performance by Jenny Livsey, her tense sexual thrill and denial followed by brief joy and desolation as her character lets her hair down literally and metaphorically).
Music also underlines the sinister with low-pitched, tugging chords, while each aspect of this staging makes Laclos’ world evident, and evidently not far from society today.
Vicomt de Valmont: Keiron Self.
Marquise de Merteuil: Lynne Seymour.
Madame de Volange: Kathryn Dimery.
Cécile de Volanges: Lizzie Rogan.
Comte de Gercourt/Azolan: Matthew Bulgo.
Madame de Tourvel: Jenny Livsey.
Madame de Rosemond: Christine Pritchard.
Chevalier de Danceny: Edward Harrison.
Director/Costume: Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones.
Designer: Carl Davies.
Lighting: Ceri James.
Composer: Peter Knight.
Choreographer: Emma Jayne Parker.
Wigs: Louise Highgate.
Fight director: Andrew Ashenden.