‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’. Although the idea that this phrase is associated with Laclos’ novel of 1782 may not be correct, it is certainly apt. Sexual manipulation, passion, rules of society and above all revenge come together in this one heart pounding, thrilling restoration romp. Lit mainly by the reflective light of a cluster of chandeliers amongst the Donmar’s intimate setting, Le Liaisons Dangereuses is theatre at its most riveting.
Laclos’ novel has been adapted many times, most famously in the 1988 film version. It has always been a spectacular tale, depicting the twisted sexual games between two ex-lovers. The Marquise de Merteiul and Vicomte de Valmont exact revenge and cruelty through their pursuit of seduction and heartbreak. The current production at The Donmar Warehouse is no different; both laugh out loud funny and incredibly tragic, it is a production which will have you on the edge of your seat throughout and leave you with a lot to think about afterwards.
The scenery is fantastic, with minimal props being just enough to give you the perfect sense of place. The lighting creates a brilliant tone and mood, the candles bringing out the shadowy elements of light and dark. The crystal refracting the many sides and faces of the characters. But ultimately this is a character driven story and would be nothing without the charisma and talent of its cast. Dominic West of course brings an easy charm and humour to the part of Vicomte de Valmont, as well as the terrifying anger of a confused man. Janet Mcteer’s Marquise however is a cut above. Oozing charisma and seductive prowess she seduces the audience. The production highlights the more feminist elements of her character and she brings them to the fore creating a strong but highly complex female heroine. Restrained and repressed, her loss was the most painful to watch and the most interesting to dissect. A true marvel to observe.
The humour of the first half gave way to a violent and dark second half. The exhilarating climax preceeded by the actors snuffing out the candles with bare hands and filling the stage with a smoky haze. The Donmar’s latest production reminds you of the rousing and immersive power of theatre. An exciting tale, a superb cast and plenty to think about on your journey home.