The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings

A CurtainUp London London Review
Les Liaisons Dangereuses

"Love and revenge. Two of your favourites." — Marquise de Merteuil
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
La Marquise de Merteuil (Janet McTeer) and le Vicomte de Valmont (Dominic West). (Photo: Johan Persson)

Les Liaisons Dangereuses was adapted for the stage thirty years ago by Christopher Hampton from Pierre Cloderlos de Laclos' 1782 four volumes of letters between the characters in the play. The principals are la Marquise de Merteuil (Janet McTeer) and le Vicomte de Valmont (Dominic West). They are ex-lovers and conspire to seduce and ruin others taking pleasure in depravity.

The particular challenge for Valmont is the virtuous wife Madame de Tourvel (Elaine Cassidy) who is friendly with his aunt Madame de Rosemonde (Una Stubbs). The difference to his challenge is that he wants her to fall in love with him not just to be seduced. La Mertreuil wants to humiliate Cecile de Volanges (Morfydd Clark), the daughter of a friend, by getting this virginal convent girl seduced by Valmont before she marries Mertreuil's ex-lover. They are a nasty pair.

Our first impression is the set by Tom Scutt. As if someone is moving out, there are furniture and paintings covered by silk like transparent drapes. Paintings stacked up against the wall but most striking are the chandeliers with real candles, and instead of being hung with clear crystal, the drops are dark rubies. It is as if the chandeliers are dripping blood. The set must be alluding to the proximity of the French Revolution just seven years away.

We don't know whether Laclos had this premonition about the revolution when writing the novels which has since been used to illustrate the corruption of the French aristocracy, but certainly uppermost in my mind at the interval, was to welcome the forthcoming revolution if it would rid us of degenerates like Valmont and Mertreuil. It is said that the Austrian queen Marie Antoinette read and enjoyed the letters. I think I was more horrified than amused by these conspiratorial destroyers of others' lives.

Janet McTeer is very elegantly evil as Madame de Mertreuil. She air kisses her female acquaintances and takes the ingenue Cecile ostensibly under her protection and acts as the go between for Cecile's romance with a young man, le Chevalier Danceny (Edward Holcroft) while enabling Valmont's seduction or rape of Cecile. She is lupine in the role and really quite sinister.

The female parts are the strongest. Elaine Cassidy is perfectly cast as the demure country wife Madame de Tourvel. She has a sweet innocence and holds out against Valmont. She is contrasted by Jennifer Saayeng's courtesan Emilie who pleasures Valmont with abandon.

Dominic West was not word perfect at the matinee when I saw the play and it is his character which has to show the emptiness of a life reaching for sexual thrills. Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a surprisingly modern play. It is being broadcast to cinemas by NT Live on January 28th in the UK and later in the US.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Written by Christopher Hampton after Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Directed by Josie Rourke

Starring: Janet McTeer, Dominic West, Elaine Cassidy, Adjoah Andoh, Una Stubbs, Morfydd Clark
With: Theo Barklem-Briggs, Jennifer Saayeng, Edward Holcroft, Thom Petty, Alison Arnopp
Designed by Tom Scutt
Lighting: Mark Henderson
Sound: Carolyn Downing
Movement: Arthur Pita
Composer: Michael Bruce
Fight Director: Richard Ryan
Running time: Two hours 35 minutes with an interval
Box Office 0844 871 7624
Booking to 13th February 2016
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 19th December 2016 matinee performance at the Donmar Warehouse, Earlham Street, London WC2H 4LD (Tube: Covent Garden)
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Les Liaisons Dangereuses
  • I disagree with the review of Les Liaisons Dangereuses
  • The review made me eager to see Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2016, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from