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Sex and Swordplay: A dangerous liaison with a French classic

Mar 13 2008 16:00
Susannah Tingle
DramSoc are spicing up the Union Concert Hall from 12?15th March, with their performance of Les Liasons Dangereuses.
The action heats up on stage... (Photography: Neel Savani)

Les Liaisons Dangereuses was a risqué undertaking by DramSoc this term. Ambitious in content, set design, shear quantity of dialogue, and the depth of characterisation required. Director Tom Chandler and his production teams? hard work and attention to detail have culminated in a very respectable performance.

Set in the upper echelons of pre?revolutionary France Les Liaisons Dangereuses details the Marquise de Merteuil (Lily Topham) and Vicomte de Valomts? (Sami Abu-Wardeh) vicious use of sex to extract revenge, whilst luxuriating in their own perverted game of cat and mouse. Christopher Hampton adapted the play in 1985 from Pierre Choderlos de Laclos? 1782 French novel of the same name. For those unfamiliar with the play the more recent film Cruel Intentions is also loosely based on the novel and engages with similar themes.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is, more so than most, a play of words, heavily reliant on the banter between the Marquise and Vicomte to stimulate drama, intrigue, and to maintain momentum. A significant proportion of the play is stagnant, occurring in the restrictive environment of the drawing room. DramSoc coped with these limitations admirably. Greater use could have been made of the script helping to avoid the production?s main short fallings: that the performances were a little flat in places, and the pace sometimes lagged.

The core of the acting was commendable and many of the pitfalls that often blight amateur productions were absent. In particular the fight scene was confidently and effectively executed and was one of the highlights of the production. There is however, still potential for further development, particularly in the lead roles. The dynamic and tonal range of the voice could have been put to greater effect and a more obvious enjoyment in the word games they play would have raised the bar of the evening. The final two scenes, and the rather raunchy bedroom scenes that punctuated the play, demonstrated the actors are capable of this.

The DramSoc crew have outdone themselves this time with a rotating stage! Not only was this an impressive piece on engineering it was put to good use. The costumes were gorgeous! I particularly liked the offset of the deep crimson of the Marquise?s gown with the pink of virginal Cecile?s in the opening scene. On the technical side better use could have been made of audio effects and (showing my ignorance now) I was a little confused by the cries of the revolutionaries at the end.

A courageous choice by DramSoc this term, and one that has largely paid off. In particular the cast should be congratulated for their unshaking ability to carry on regardless of the technical difficulties that are inevitable in a dress rehearsal. I get the impression that DramSoc are on the verge of raising the standard of their performance and eagerly anticipate the occasion when everything truly comes together.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses runs from 12?15th March 2008 in the Union Concert Hall. Doors open at 7pm, performances start at 7:30pm.

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