CYD-GYNHYRCHIAD MAPPA MUNDI | THEATR MWLDAN CO-PRODUCTION
UK TOUR 2010
“Cruelty has a noble ring to it.”
“Le Vicomte de Valmont is conspicuously charming and never opens his mouth without first calculating what damage he can do.” Mme. De Volanges
In 2010 Mappa Mundi turned their attention to Dangerous Liaisons, a new stage adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel of lust, greed, deception, and romance.
A sumptuously mounted celebration of artful wickedness, betrayal, and sexual intrigue among depraved 18th-century French aristocrats, Dangerous Liaisons offered audiences seductively decadent fun.
Set amongst the glittering chandeliers and marble salons of Paris, Dangerous Liaisons exposes the seedy reality of the rarefied microcosm of the old French aristocracy. This is a society in which the most innocent and noble-minded become the sexual prey of a couple of bored and decadent ex-lovers, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, having both ice-cold revenge and sizzling seduction on their minds. The story unfolds through a series of letters written by the idle rich, as each missive exposes plots and counterplots until sexual corruption and the desire for vengeance propels the story to its tragic ending.
Bringing to it the panache and flair which theatre audiences have long associated with Mappa Mundi’s work, Dangerous Liaisons is sophisticated, witty, yet raucous; it is dark, sensual, and insightful. Most of all, it is very, very sexy. This new production of Dangerous Liaisons is a treat for the senses: Mappa Mundi recreates in its own indomitable style the spectacle and squalor of French society at the moment it was to change forever.
Mappa Mundi’s Dangerous Liaisons will be a new adaptation of the original novel, and follows their previous successful adaptations of Canterbury Tales and Moll Flanders.
Dangerous Liaisons gave 38 performances to 24 venues, playing to a total audience of 4,324 across the run.
Press Reviews / Adolygiadau’r Wasg
Another Classy Production from Mappa Mundi
Dangerous Liaisons by Mappa Mundi / Theatr Mwldan Lilting harpsichord music fills the auditorium. As an audience we know exactly where we are, prepared for a play set in pre-revolutionary France, all taffetas, grace and aristocracy. The lights go down and the cast of eight, lit from behind, assembles for a formal dance; except that the harpsichord has been overlaid with Adam and the Ants’“We are Family” underpinned by a ferocious drumming.
It is very Mappa Mundi, but the choice of music is also clever. It is a pointer that the characters are barely family, and where family does exist it makes faint claim to any moral tutelage. In a small but clever touch in Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones’ direction a passing physical gesture on the part of Christine Pritchard’s Madame de Rosemond’s to her nephew signifies her tacit approval of his behaviour. As for Kathryn Dimery’s Madame de Volange daughter Cecile is little more than prospective marriage material for social and monetary advantage. That Matthew Bulgo’s Comte de Gercourt is three times her age is of no account.
Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones is also his own costume designer. His achievement, possibly a motivation too, is to wipe out any memory of all those creams and whites in which the film dressed Michelle Pfeiffer and Glenn Close. The dress is themed to be as dark as the action. Kathryn Dimery has copper hair piled high and a jutting piece of headgear that adds six inches to her stature. Earrings dangle to her throat. Lynne Seymour’s Marquise de Merteuil is similar. A cluster of diamonds glitter around her neck and on her earrings. Significantly the previously unadorned Cecile is presented with jewels after her moral debauching. The dark spidery look is repeated in the first appearance of Keiron Self’s Vicomte de Valmont with a piece of black headwear so feathery that it is almost a nest.
This version of “Dangerous Liaisons” is not Christopher Hampton’s. It is a joint enterprise of the company, well done, with many fine and long sentences.
A line like “You do nothing without calculated malevolence” may be theirs or may be that of Choderlos de Laclos. Whatever, the speaking is beautifully patterned and enunciated by all the cast.
Structurally, there isn’t a novel that does not transfer gawkily to the stage. A text that is intended for the stage is sewn with references forward and backwards that binds it together. The first half of “Dangerous Liaisons” is an accumulation of plot actions. The audience has to wait until the second half for the thematic bite to take hold.
That bite has a grip of modernity to it that belies the 1782 year of its authorship. With lines like “I was born to dominate your sex and avenge my own” Marquise de Merteuil is an entirely new female persona in fiction. Lynne Seymour plays her to the hilt with a sensual mix of independence and allure. The over-riding need for “control of my destiny” demands a price, the need for autonomy predicated on emotional detachment. “Shame is like pain. It is felt only once” she tells young Cecile as she considers the prospect of wealth within marriage and erotic adventure without. Madame de Merteuil’s line on hearing of the demise of a woman of virtue “she was and is of no consequence” is one to shock.
“Love in the plays of Marivaux” says a critic “gets you in touch with everything…Love is the key to self-knowledge.” But “Dangerous Liaisons” is all about the opposite. It probes that most widespread of fallacies, that love is the fulfillment of ego. In only one instance here is the opposite revealed, that love asks less for the ascendancy of ego than its yielding. Valmont’s emotional self-shredding is rooted in a one fear that over-arches everything. The fear of social humiliation, even if self-imagined, has to favour cruelty over the risk of being laughed at. His anthem of “I have no choice” is the ultimate expression of the lack of self-knowledge.
As for the acting Jenny Livsey’s Madame de Tourvel exhibits the real pain of virtue under assault. Kathryn Dimery’s voice has a beautiful shift of register upon discovering her daughter’s love letters to Edward Harrison’s Danceny. Lizzie Rogan takes her character from a giggling fifteen year old to a seared child bride. Kieron Self in his fur-trimmed satin house-wear is the embodiment of projected masculine force with all the character’s rapid manipulative switches.
Carl Davies’ set is of blue veined marble and a floor of diagonal tiles. A back projection of an unidentified aristocrat oversees much of the action, followed by a picture of seduction. A letter-writing scene is saucily staged to echo the picture. In a neat circular reference it is a reminder not just that Boucher’s famous painting of Marie-Louise O’Murphy was done at a now unthinkable fourteen years of age but that Fragonard illustrations accompanied the first edition of Choderlos de Laclos’ novel.
It is good that an audience does not become over-comfortable with a company. All credit then to Mappa Mundi’s artistic directorate for carrying out a major shift of gear from the last few years.
“Dangerous Liaisons” tours Wales and England until 27th June.
Adam Somerset for Dangerous Liaisons
Reviewed at Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan, April 26 2010
Mappa Mundi’s terrific new adaptation of Laclos’s scandalous epistolary novel from 1782 begins with a moment or two of decorous harpsichord. It doesn’t last. Soon, there’s the discordant shock of Adam and the Ants shrieking Kings of the Wild Frontier through the chamber music mixed with scraps of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies.
The effect is unsettling and irresistible, rather like Carl Davies’s set: an aristocratic domestic interior dipped in shocking pink and sultry purples. It’s punk-tinged, seething with a dark passion that’s echoed in the cast’s black attire. They are in mourning for the King, but the garb also reflects the moral bankruptcy at play here. “Genuine wickedness,” Valmont (Keiron Self) observes, watching the Marquise de Merteuil (Lynne Seymour) at work. “You flatterer,” she replies.
The modern touches are welcome but barely necessary in Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones’s impressively accessible reworking of the original, staged to dip in and out of letters only at the most dramatic, sensual or funny moments. Throughout, the language is startlingly clear and beautifully enunciated, full of vivid, bitter one-liners. “How civilly we people of quality hate each other,” Valmont notes.
That veneer of civility soon crumbles in the vicious power struggle between Valmont and Merteuil, and its toxic fall-out in their circle. The performances are flawless, with highlights including Lizzie Rogan as 15-year-old Cecile, who goes from snorty giggles to a grim, sudden maturity, and Jenny Livesey as Tourvel, the one true innocent in the mix. It’s Seymour, though, who proves endlessly watchable, especially at the height of her feminist machinations when she’s like Joan Collins at her bitchiest crossed with Sex and the City’s Samantha. Her reign can’t last in this man’s world, but it’s a ravishing, smouldering thrill to observe while it does.
Elisabeth Mahoney’s 4* review for The Guardian
Reviewed at Blackwood Miners’ Institute
A livid red light bathes a stylised 18th Century Baroque interior. Figures formally position themselves into dancing poses and then execute elegant twirls and leaps while funky, very non 18th Century, music blasts from the speakers.
Mappa Mundi have launched into their own adaptation of Laclos’ epistolary novel all about the sexual manoeuvrings of the French aristocracy. These are people behaving very badly indeed but are the company behaving badly to the book?
No they most certainly are not. At the heart of what is often a very funny production is a dark, bleak and cruel core which emerges full blown in the last half hour. This hugely entertaining piece ends on a picture of utter devastation as most of the characters are stripped of all their illusions, and some of their very lives.
It’s very satisfying that Cécile, the virginal convent girl whose sexual education we have been guiltily enjoying all evening, is the one person to have emerged as a woman who has grown into strength and maturity. And how delectably well Lizzie Roghan plays her, coming very close to taking the acting honours with her bubbly comedy.
Not quite though. This is a book and play that belongs to the two conspirators at its centre. Valmont is a man confident in his seduction prowess. Keiron Self gives him an unusual rough edged quality which works very well. It lets you see how unusual and attractive that would be to the ladies who swoon.
He however proves no match for the arch-manipulator he thinks is his partner in mischief. Lynne Seymour, magnificently bewigged, is a sublimely unrepentant plotter, setting wheels within wheels within wheels in motion. She also has some wicked dialogue which she delivers with forcefulness and power.
Jenny Livesey has the difficult role of the wholly good woman, Madame de Tourvel, a character who can sometimes seem dull and colourless. Not here though. There is a wholly believable luminosity to the performance which makes her purity almost palpable and her seduction painful to watch.
The rest of the company is very strong and the result is a production that grips from the opening to the closing tableaux. It’s very funny but also devastatingly moving. There’s never a false not and I rate it as the finest production I’ve ever seen from Mappa Mundi.
Victor Hallet’s review for Theatre In Wales website
Reviewed at The Borough Theatre Abergavenny, May 6 2010
Sumptuous, sensational and seductive
Sumptuous, sensational and seductive are three words that sprung to mind when I left the theatre the other evening. I am a great lover of the novel written by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos and even a fan of the film which was produced in 1988. I was so excited to see this adaption that I went in full of excitement and was not disappointed.
Adapted and directed by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones this fantastically debauched story brings the essential essence of 18th cenutry france and the modern humour of today together in a performance of sheer brilliance. I am always impressed by what this company has to bring to an audience, and the audiences in Cardigan and Ceredigion are no different.
Carl Davies creates a striking set which brings you into of the era superbly. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones also designed the costumes for this production, they worked with the set beautifully and added a level of intregue to the characters which was essential.
With a cast of 8, there is no weak link to this piece. The level of intelligence and precision in each performance was simply exhausting to watch. Lynne Seymour (Marquise de Merteuil) gave the audience the conniving and unforgiving performance desired and Keiron Self (Vicomte de Valmont) was enchanting and the love/hate relationship with the characters onstage and indeed the audience was perfectly mastered and a great success.
Each cast and crew member should be congratulated for this innovative and attention grabbing rendition of a splendid novel and truly great play.
Paul Hodges for Theatre In Wales website
Reviewed at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, May 10 2010
‘Richly and wickedly funny but bleak and devastating darkness at its core. It is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever seen from Mappa Mundi.’
Victor Hallet on Dangerous Liaisons
Cast / Y Gast
Lighting Designer / Production Manager
Company Stage Manager
Lloyd Llewelyn Jones
Lloyd Llewelyn Jones
Clare Porter & Tasha White
22 Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan
23 Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan
27 Blackwood Miners’ Institute
30 Borough Theatre, Abergavenny
1 Borough Theatre, Abergavenny
4 Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon
7 Aberystwyth Arts Centre
13 Coliseum, Aberdare
14 Porthcawl Pavillion, Porthcawl
15 Theatr Hafren, Newtown
18 Torch Theatre, Milford Haven
19 Torch Theatre, Milford Haven
21 Galeri, Caernarfon
22 The Stiwt, Rhosllannerchrugog
25 Greenwich Theatre, London
26 Greenwich Theatre, London
27 Greenwich Theatre, London
28 Greenwich Theatre, London
29 Greenwich Theatre, London
1 Venue Cymru, Llandudno
3 Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllhelli
5 Palace Theatre, Newark
8 Coal Exchange, Cardiff
9 Coal Exchange, Cardiff
10 Coal Exchange, Cardiff
12 The Welfare, Ystradgynlais
15 Taliesin, Swansea
16 Taliesin, Swansea
18 The Roses Theatre,Tewkesbury
19 Artrix, Bromsgrove
22 The Castle, Wellingborough
24 Theatre Royal, Winchester
25 Theatre Royal, Winchester
26 The Theatre, Chipping Norton
27 Cornerstone, Didcot