Left – Catherine Davies and Janine Watson. Cover – Alexandra Aldrich. Photos – Sarah Walker
Little Ones Theatre’s version of the much-adored play Dangerous Liaisons for NEON Festival of Independent Theatre, directed by Stephen Nicolazzo, is a sensual delight and messes with your mind quite deliciously. For a start it looks so gorgeous with the performers decked out in varying shades of pink against a scintillatingly luscious gold curtained backdrop. The design aesthetic manages to be both minimalist and opulent at the same time; good work from set and costume designers Eugyeene Teh and the superbly monikered Tessa Leigh Wolffenbuttel Pitt.
The play stays faithful to the text, that is, the play by Christopher Hampton from the 18th century French novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Lacos. This production manages to avoid any reminders of the seminal film starring John Malkovich and Glen Close, a close call that one, as the film would be most people’s point of reference. There are moments in this production that remind you of Little One’s hilariously polished and messed up tilt at Oscar Wilde’s Salome at the Malthouse last year – they do fine entrances and exits, this lot. Best of all Dangerous Liaisons is thoroughly sexy and you’re invited to be as pervy as you like. There are bosoms.
Alexandra Aldrich plays the scheming Marquise de Meurteil and Janine Watson does a strong and tightly held turn opposite her as the Vicomte de Valmont. There are big laughs from the hearty presence of Joanne Sutton as Madame de Rosemonde, fabulously butch with crewcut and cigar. Brigid Gallacher plays the woefully exploited Mme de Torville and Amanda McGregor the innocent Cecile.
The stylised mechanical poses of the opening scenes give way to more nuanced deliveries as the story moves along so that you are seduced into something disturbing, something more than the sum of the machinations of the plot or of the girls-playing-boys element of the show. It’s fun but guilty fun: a campy extravaganza atop emotional depths employing a tricky balance of tone. Watson and Gallacher get to embody a range of feelings constrained by the mores of the time and the mood of the piece. Refined excess in all respects. Zoe Boesen as Mme de Volange, Catherine Davies as Azolan/ Emilie, and Tom Dent as Danceny are all excellent as well.
My only problem is that the ending of this Dangerous Liaisons feels compressed and somehow diluted, even though, as you’d expect, things have heated up considerably during the second half. The public shaming of Madame Mertueil, although hinted at, is missing and her ultimate ruination doesn’t play out with as much impact as you’d imagine.
Little Ones Theatre presents
by Christopher Hampton
Director Stephen Nicolazzo
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
Dates: 29 May – 8 June 2014
Tickets: $25 (NEON Pass 5 plays for $100)
Bookings: 03 8688 0800 | mtc.com.au/neon