I don't know how dangerous she is, but this Lesley Aisons certainly seems like a bit of a cow.
Valmont has two challenges in hand: In revenge for Madame de Volanges (Adjoa Andoh)
spreading rumours about him, he will seduce her daughter Cécile (Morfydd Clark,) a
naïve convent school girl engaged to a wealthy enemy of Merteuil's, embarrassing
both sides by the time the marriage takes place.
He has an even bigger challenge in mind at the same time though, as Madame de
Tourvel (Elaine Cassidy) is famed for her loyalty to her (conveniently absent)
husband, and is currently staying with Valmont's aunt (Una Stubbs.) If he can get
her into bed, and also get a love letter from her confirming the fact, Merteuil will
have sex with him one more time. Hampton's play still works very well thanks to a
lot of witty, bitchy lines and the destructive central relationship of the pair
who'd rather send each other to bed with half of France than admit how much they
depend on each other.
There's a great staging conceit in Tom Scutt's set of the grand houses the story
takes place in as they might look now, crumbling and covered in plastic dust sheets,
a reminder of how temporary the intrigues dominating these characters' lives are in
the grand scheme of things (de Laclos' novel was published only a few years before
the French Revolution would bring these kinds of aristocrats' activities to a head.
Literally.) Although the candles aren't the main source of lighting, the chandeliers
also add to the atmosphere~, as does Michael Bruce's evocative period music.
When the production keeps up the pace it speeds along entertainingly (the 90-minute
first act doesn't feel as long as it is) although there's a couple of lulls whenever
the energy levels drop, thanks to an underpowered, unfocused Valmont from West. I don't know if
he was just having a bad night but he didn't entirely seem to be concentrating
tonight, fluffing several lines throughout the evening and even knocking the odd
prop over. It's awkward, especially as Valmont is onstage almost constantly, but
McTeer's wicked, sultry-voiced Merteuil dominates the show. Backed up by an
enthusiastic cast that also includes Edward Holcroft as another, seemingly hopeless
suitor of Cécile's, and Theo Barklem-Biggs as Valmont's gleefully seedy valet and
sidekick, McTeer easily saves the day.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Choderlos de
Laclos, is booking until the 13th of February at the Donmar Warehouse.
Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes including interval.
*Cruel Intentions, obvs
~and a bit of an unintentional sense of danger - the overenthusiastic aircon blows
the wax into big stalactites on one side of each candle, and they occasionally come
crashing to the stage