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New Era - Les Liaisons Dangereuses

5th to 14th September 2002.

This is the Newbury Weekly News review.

Cruel pursuits of the aristos

'LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES', performed by New Era Players, from Thursday, September 5 to Saturday, September 14

New Era  players have an excellent reputation for the quality of their productions and their latest play Christopher Hampton's 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' maintained this tradition with both verve and style.

Hampton's terse episodic tale based on Lacio's novel concerns the sexual machinations of two jaded 18th-century French aristocrats. Lisa Harrington gave a powerful, engaging performance as the manipulating, cruel, scheming La Marquise de Merteuil who is determined to wreak revenge on the man who had jilted her. She manages to persuade a former lover Le Vicomte de Valmont, rakishly played by Stephen Bennett, to seduce and deflower the man's virginal young fiancée, demurely portrayed by Jill Lynn.

Valmont agrees, but also has a plan of his own to bed the virtuous Mme de Volanges, Anne Oldham, as his first of many conquests. If he succeeds he also demands that the Marquise must grant him a night in bed.

The cold-blooded twosome begin to weave their heartless scheme, filled with sexual deceit, into a high-stake human game of chess. As with all games, things sometimes have a habit of going wrong and as Valmont says about his circumstances: "It is beyond my control." His plan to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel, sensitively played by Susanna Mayer, goes somewhat awry when the pair discover that they have fallen in love with each other, much to the annoyance and anger of the Marquise.

Neil Dowdrey was the innocent Le Chevalier Dancey, a mere pawn in the Marquise's hand, and Valerie Maskell gave a splendidly controlled performance as Mme de Rosemonde.

Director Janet Bennett had a talented cast to work with and successfully captured the wit and style of this complicated play. The opulence of the era was created by a simple set with tapestry covered walls, flowing curtains, chaise-longues and beautiful period costumes. The action of the play takes place in various salons and bedrooms and the servants were well-drilled in the many scene changes under the watchful eye of the major-domo, Glenn Clarkson.

This was a captivating evening's entertainment, highly enjoyed by an appreciative audience.