Above The Stag
Above The Stag's summer season has got off to a glorious start with director Tim McArthur's new production. There have been many different adaptations of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, but none of them as fresh as Tom Smith's Dangerous which transfers the action from 18th Century France to the present day, with the French aristocracy now Britain's rainbow nation.
The plot centres around Marcus and Alexander, ex-lovers who try to out-scheme each other and reap sweet revenge. They do this by deceiving apparent close ones and playing malicious games, but ultimately their plans become a tangled web of intrigue which only ends in tears.
Man about town Alexander is played by Matthew Blake, who is careful not to conform to overblown stereotypes. He plays Alexander as a fragile and lonely man who glosses over his cracks with a flamboyant nature and performed confidence and in doing so demonstrates great understanding of this role.
There are some wonderful comic moments from Blake as his character tries to get ever closer to nearly ordained priest Trevor, played by Christopher Rorke. As Alexander feigns repentance, a consoling hand from Trevor on his shoulder receives a twinkle in his eye and later in the play the two bring a whole new meaning to the Passion of Christ.
As rival Marcus, Luke Harris is more sultry and conniving. His performance provides the perfect antithesis to Blake's Alexander and so the all important contrast needed in theatre is established. The two work well together as emotional manipulators and must be especially commended for a scene where they speak the same text concurrently with the purest of clarity - this is not an easy feat.
If sex sells, this production will rake in the cash. Marcus and Alexander's escapades lead to never ending sexual favours, all tastefully staged by McArthur. A lot of flesh is on show, but this only contributes to the notion that for Marcus and Alexander sex is merely a part of their game plan. It reminds the audience that, sadly, for the two protagonists sex is just an action and not an act of passion; theirs will always be a world of lust.
Fi Russel's set makes the most of the intimate space Above The Stag and even manages to fit in a fold down double bed. Duvet covers and pillow cases of differing colours depict whose bed is occupied at any one time, with blasts of well chosen pop music covering the neat scene changes. The lyrics echo the mood and content of the previous or subsequent scene and so establish a clear link between events and allow for a smooth transition. This slickness contributes greatly to the evening's enjoyment and demonstrates how much thought has gone into the production.
Dangerous begins and ends with a game of Scrabble between Marcus and Rosemonde and for this production the winning word combination without a doubt has to be 'fantastic'.
Playing until 11th July 2010
Reviewer: Simon Sladen