Given the immorality of the main characters, it's hardly surprising that the first publication of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in Paris in 1782 created shockwaves. Apparently, the main cause for concern was not so much the villains' bedroom antics and manipulation of everyone else, but the fact that they were so charming, witty and intelligent. It was even decreed in 1824 that the Chaderlos de Laclos novel should be destroyed. Now Mobil Touring Theatre scores a major success for providing a first-class production of the piece, adapted into English by Christopher Hampton, who also translated West End hit Art.
Feisty redhead Siobhan Redmond and London's Burning's jack-the-lad Clive Wood head an excellent cast on a journey of power games, sexual manipulation and trickery. Redmond, donning a glorious scarlet gown, is the picture of composure while spinning a web of betrayal and deceit as La Marquise de Mertueil, while Wood's Le Vicomte de Valmont is temptation itself, totally beguiling and brimming with sexual confidence. They work together brilliantly, sparkling with sexual tension and making intensely likeable villains, alluring in their corrupt antics and ingenious in their deceit.
The contrast between them and the puritan good guys who fall unwiitting victims to their games is beautifully played out. This is where the play really makes its mark - you long for the bad guys to succeed. Sophie Ward is wonderfully irritating as the dull and passionless object of Valmont's desire, while Heather Dickinson makes the most of a small but important role as the young Cecile de Volanges, an immature convent girl who falls prey to Valmont's unsubtle seduction.
Director Peter Wilson emphasises the humour and dramatic irony to good effect, although occasionally to the point of being heavy-handed, and the large number of scene changes between the various salons and bedrooms of Andrew Leigh's set take far took long, leaving the audience at times unsure whether the house lights were about to come up.
But these are small niggles. This Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a brilliant production - funny, accessible and well worth a visit.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses tours to:
Aberdeen Her Majesty's Theatre April 4-8
Edinburgh King's Theatre April 11-15
Blackpool Grand Theatre April 18-22
Dublin Gaiety Theatre April 25-29
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre May 2-6
Newcastle Theatre Royal May 9-13
Lowry Centre, Salford Quays May 16-20
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury May 23-27
Brighton Theatre Royal May 30-June 3
Richmond Theatre June 6-10