Northern Ballet’s tour of DANGEROUS LIAISONS is beautifully danced and evocatively performed, despite its rushed ending
Tasteful passion with a side of raunch, Northern Ballet’s tour of DANGEROUS LIAISONS hits Salford’s The Lowry this week before it heads to Sadlers Wells from 8 to 10 June.
Set in pre-revolution France where bedroom games are a way to combat boredom and everyone is everyone else’s lover or mistress, DANGEROUS LIAISONS is based on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The story revolves around the pitiless and impervious Marquise de Merteuil who creates a bet with her former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont, to squander the virtue and innocence of two women. As letters fly between houses and are passed around the wrong recipients, chaos, heartbreak and destruction ensue.
If Joseph Taylor’s Vicomte de Valmont is the answer to Regé-Jean Page’s Duke from BRIDGETON then Abigail Prudames’ Marquise de Merteuil is certainly not Daphne. Vicomte de Valmont actually falls in love, and battles those feelings for Madame de Tourvel, even though she was only ever supposed to be a conquest on his way back to his former lover the Marquise. Now he has to choose the game or the true feelings.
Holding court on a string, the Marquise de Marteuil makes her puppets perform to her liking, although as with life it doesn’t always go to plan. When it doesn’t, her jealousy and her vindictiveness create her own downfall, and that of her former lover and fellow game player the Vicomte. Several scenes where Abigail controls the other dancers really shows the puppet master at her best and how the meddling of a bored aristocrat can bring both joy and jealousy.
Cecile Volanges, played by Rachael Gillespie, is the most notable dancer for her clear emotions expressed beautifully, though this is helped by the brilliant choreography. Young and naive, her character is played by the Marquise, introduced to a suitor in Chevalier Danceny (Filippo Di Vilio) who woos her with letters. She is then destroyed by the Vicomte’s seduction and the revelation of the letter’s contents to her mother. Separated from his love, he’s used as a pawn in the Marquise’s and the Vicomte’s game, ending in tragedy.
The virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Antoinette Brooks-Daw) fights off the affections of the Vicomte until succumbing as all the women seem to do and losing her barriers. Again a pawn in the game of French life, she too falls into a trap of love and loses. Antoinette’s characterisation is effective and well performed.
Shame then that the ballet ends abruptly, not really concluding the liaison for the other characters. Do the Chevalier and Cecile get back together? Does Madame de Tourvel find out the truth of the Vicomte’s true feelings? The narration at the beginning also doesn’t really work, although it does try to bring it back around at the end.
The set is simple with a classic nod to the French setting, a chaise longue and a Queen Anne settee. A writing desk is placed at the front of the stage to always bring the fact that the writing of letters and the passing of these to the wrong people can create mayhem and madness. The movement of five chandeliers signified the different locations, and the change of colours from white to red to show anger, and yellow for jealousy is a subtle yet effective lighting design by Alastair West.
The music conducted by Johnathan Lo and played live by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia sent the music of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons around the theatre with passion, and heightened the moments of anxiety and tension well, gaining a standing applause at the end, which is well deserved.
Northern Ballet’s DANGEROUS LIAISONS runs at The Lowry, Salford until 5 June 2021.
Vikki Rutter is a North West review writer, working in the glamorous world of TV. Lover of travel and cats, although travelling cats not so much.