I needn’t have fretted. Northern Ballet’s Dangerous Liaisons, the creation of its outgoing director, David Nixon, is a model of clarity and character definition, showing that although it is advisable to know the bare bones of the story beforehand, you can easily follow the labyrinthine plot, with its constant to-ing and fro-ing of letters pointing to the novel’s original format.
It opens with the older, broken Marquise de Merteuil, contemplating the wreckage of her plans to find amusement by conniving in the seduction of innocent and virtuous women, while a voiceover briefly introduces the main characters, the Marquise herself (Abigail Prudames) and her one-time lover and accomplice, the Vicomte de Valmont (Joseph Taylor).
The other characters take to the stage gradually, giving us time to familiarise ourselves with each one: the young and naive Cécile Volanges (Rachel Gillespie), who’s engaged to Gercourt (Andrew Tomlinson), her protective but silly mother Madame de Volanges (Mariana Rodrigues), the pious, virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Antoinette Brooks-Daw), whose seduction by Valmont precipitates the final chain of retribution, and the Chevalier Danceny (Matthew Koon), sent by Merteuil to seduce Cécile, but who ends up as the Marquise’s temporary toyboy, faute de mieux…
The first thing to say is that Northern Ballet's dancers are admirable, totally assured in their classical ballet technique and profoundly eloquent in their ability to inhabit their characters, although Joseph Taylor, tall, powerful and rakish could perhaps develop Valmont beyond a one-note baddie. It has to be said, though, that his part-seduction, part-rape of the virginal Cécile is genuinely unnerving, edge-of-your-seat stuff.
Conversely, Matthew Koon is a thrilling dancer. Beautifully proportioned, with meticulous definition of every step and an impressive ballon, he steals every scene he’s in, his young Danceny a smiley, head-in-the-clouds poet, incapable of malice, easily manipulated, but ultimately capable of an honourable gesture in defence of his true love, Cécile.
Abigail Prudames is superb as a haughty, cold, amoral Marquise de Merteuil, treating everybody else as puppets whose string she pulls at will. And Antoinette Brooks-Daw, in a fetching, if anachronistic blonde bob, conveys the transition from the piety of a faithful wife to the abandon of a mistress, her body pliant, burning with eager passion yet full of guilt, in her duets with her seducer Valmont.
Dangerous Liaisons is set to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, played live by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, with a multipurpose minimalist set and sumptuous period costumes. It’s skilfully and atmospherically lit by Alastair West and makes for a most enjoyable evening in the theatre.
Age Guidance: 12+
Northern Ballet's second programme at Sadler's Wells is Contemporary Cuts on Friday 11 & Saturday 12 June
|What||Northern Ballet, Dangerous Liaisons review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
08 Jun 21 – 10 Jun 21, 19:30 Thur mat 14:30 Dur.: 90 mins approx inc a 15 min pause
|Price||£15-£65 (+booking fee|
|Website||Click here to book|