French fancy par excellence

Dangerous Liaisons
Christopher Hampton
Trinity Lawns
Weds-Sat 7.30pm
Rating: 4.5/5

The Dangerous Liaisons cast is clearly a close, dynamic bunch of thesps. Combined with the acerbic and oddly timeless script, this should have made for great theatre.

It was clear, too, as they watched their compatriots act, that they love this play to bits. They have good reason to, because Rachel Bull’s Dangerous Liaisons is fantastic.

The plot concerns the sexually predatorial Marquise de Merteuil (Chloe Courtney) and her equally depraved “friend” and notorious rake Vicomte de Valmont (Alex Krasodomski-Jones).

It becomes clear throughout the piece that, trapped in a world where women are powerless, Merteuil has turned and utterly surrendered to her one escape: pleasure.

This comes out best in a speech which really showcases her considerable talent as an actor – Courtney fairly smoulders, and all her performance drips with cruelty, completely inhabiting the self-loathing, nihilistic world of the play.

Her counterpart, Krasodomski-Jones, might as well have been assembled specially for the play, a louche Lothario whose body language means he effortlessly fills the stage with a dreadful charisma. The only possible fault is on occasion his dialogue seems a little forced.

The kinks are minor, however, and the dialogue flows more and more readily as the play progresses. By the end, despite the “proper” language of the Ancien Régime, the dialogue ends up curiously naturalistic.

The rest of the cast members are equally good. Mademoiselle Volanges (Freya Willets) is perfectly cast as the virginal target of Valmont’s techniques – prim and proper and quiet.

When Volanges comes to her as she sleeps and refuses to leave her room, the tension is palpable. In what is already a very disquieting scene, Willets says to Valmont “Please, don’t,” so piteously that you actually feel uncomfortable watching it. It’s a scene that should remind the audience that this is not a man you can love to hate: he is a predator.

Similarly, the real object of Valmont’s affections, de Tourvel (Charlie Mulliner) is wound up and repressed, but her sudden outbursts of emotion, which could be jarring, come across as very believable.

Ultimately, they are all fooling themselves and are thoroughly miserable – the cast portray these empty, complicated people very well.

The set is minimalist, but effective, and if it ends up raining it likely won’t translate so well to an indoor venue. These are minor points, nonetheless and can’t detract from a very well staged, well acted interpretation. Definitely one to watch.