When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Dangerous Liaisons: Oxford Playhouse
‘Anyone could do it,” says the Vicomte in bored tones. The Marquise de Merteuil has suggested that her former lover the Vicomte should relieve innocent young Cécile of her virginity, now that she has left convent school. The Vicomte rejects the idea, not because he has any moral scruples but because he is determined to concentrate on bagging and bedding the highly religious Madame de Tourvel, a famously chaste judge’s wife.
Thus begins the decadent plot of Dangerous Liaisons, which is staged by student company DEM Productions at the Playhouse this week. DEM are using a version you will not have seen before: director Christina Drollas has ditched Christopher Hampton’s famous adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s novel and prepared her own edition — to highlight the fact that “tragedy and comedy are best when they go hand in hand”, as she puts it in a programme note.
Actor Ziad Samaha plainly relishes the characterisation offered by Drollas’s script. His Vicomte is a gold-plated s**t (as opera singer Sir Thomas Allen once described Don Giovanni). His hands constantly wandering up thighs (and he’s not averse to stroking a man’s knee either), he mouths a constant stream of platitudes and plenty of blatant lies: his “Word of Honour” is sprinkled about like confetti. Finally conquering the Judge’s wife, he quickly dumps her. When she protests, he arrogantly and cruelly informs her that she has been very lucky: she has had his undivided attention for four whole days.
Pulling the Vicomte’s strings is the Marquise de Merteuil. In a performance worthy of Samantha Bond in one of her more viperous roles, Alice Porter presents a thoroughly unpleasant and manipulative woman, utterly selfish and full of spite. In contrast, Claudia King is a charmingly innocent Cécile, all too easily reassured by the Vicomte when he arrives at her bedroom door, and Ella Waldman gives a touching, sympathetic portrayal of the deeply hurt Judge’s wife.
Meanwhile thoroughly decent Danceny (Daniel Draper in a warm performance) is a man who feels that a huge bouquet of flowers is the way to a girl’s heart. In the end Danceny has no option: he must challenge the Vicomte to a duel, which is fought with gusto.
I saw the dress rehearsal, so the excellent cast weren’t able to fully test themselves on an audience, but in this assured production writer/director Drollas should certainly draw you into her twin worlds of tragedy and comedy. It will certainly be a long time before I forget the slimy Vicomte.
Until Saturday. 01865 305305 (www.oxfordplayhouse.cim)