Laclos’ “Dangerous Liaisons” (Whole Hog Theatre)
Town Hall, Royal Leamington Spa
February 2012 (retrospect)
It’s always a brave move to adapt something that has already been done before, and Whole Hog Theatre’s adaptation of Laclos’ eighteenth century novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses, although brave and beautifully directed, failed to deliver the punch and raw sex of Christopher Hampton’s multiple adaptations of the same text.
But don’t stop reading there, there is a huge amount about this particular interpretation that leads me to believe that there is a great future for the company. Where the lustre and rape-like power of John Malkovich’s Vicomte de Valmont in the memorable film (1988) is difficult to shake, Will Kelly’s Valmont had an inescapable charm that was impossible to ignore; similarly there were equally sterling performance from Alistair Faiers (Danceny), Lucy Katz (Volanges) and Immi Calderwood (Merteuil).
The entire company had a masterful grasp of their own bodies, popping and locking with great skill between scenes, fully taking on their chess-piece characters without exception. The fight scenes at the end were wonderful, compelling and frighteningly realistic. Polly Boon’s costumes were beautiful and masterfully constructed, cleverly emulating both the chess-piece concept whilst not dropping out of an era.
This era, however, was distorted by the frequent bursts of contemporary music which, although clearly lyrically relevant to each scene were distracting and not justified – one of the resounding opinions I have of the company’s future is that original, if not live, music would aid a continuation of the physically compelling theatre they have been commended for in the past. The music distracted from what was otherwise a fluid and pacey script, also written by Polly Boon, which utilised a neat framing device whereby Laclos introduces his own characters, his own chess-pieces in a perverse game.
I wish the company well on their tour in September this year, it is certainly a piece that, although not perfect, with added bite and higher stakes could be a phenomenal project that acts as a springboard to further work. A bit more sex, a bit more death, and potentially a guitar…