Dangerous Liaisons by Sedos
As a long-time fan of SEDOS, I was excited to be able to attend the first night of their first full dance production and intrigued to see how Dangerous Liaisons could possibly be adapted for this medium.
Rest assured, my expectations were exceeded on both counts as the evening unfolded into a masterclass of dramatic contemporary dance which fully captured the themes of seduction and revenge of the original play.
Each SEDOS season showcases a range of plays and musicals, from popular, well-loved classics to lesser-known and newer works which can challenge both cast and audience. Their weekly Sedance class obviously attracts enthusiastic and highly competent dancers, and the decision to use this to add a new artform to their repertoire was brilliant and will hopefully herald more in the future. I can only add that they have set the bar very high with this one.
What was clear from both the Directors’ (Kimberly Barker and Tom Leonard) notes and the performance, was that this was a fully-explored and collaborative piece of theatre, where every detail had been thought through to enhance the performances.
The decision to update the story to modern-day Hollywood with the #metoo and Time’s Up movements highlighting the corruption and mysogyny rife in the industry, was masterful. The filmed back-story was presented as a series of interviews on a large screen, which was then used to locate us throughout the performance: from the set of the fictitious film ‘Daughters’, to various locations in Hollywood and even the Oscars.
Full marks to the creative team too for the stunning use of the Bridewell performance space, with the audience seated along one of the long sides, facing the all-white brick wall with a single door and small staircase at one end, and a large sliding galvanised door at the other that accommodated the setting and striking of the furniture. This allowed the colour palette of the costumes and props to really pop, and the decision to keep each main character in a distinctive colour throughout all their costume-changes helped with their identity through the scenes, whilst the ensemble wore monochrome shades.
Having mentioned main characters and ensemble, let me make it clear that the high standard of dance and characterisation was consistent across all performers. The fact that this had been directed as a collaboration with the performers was so evident – they really did own their performances.
The decision to gender-change Merteuil was a masterstroke; Peter Stonnell’s powerful dancing portrayed the control and heartlessness of the character and made the final seduction of Danceny – whose innocence was beautifully portrayed by Wing Ho Lin – all the more poignant. It was hard to believe that Wing Ho Lin has only been dancing for a year and that this is his first-ever dance performance.
Olivier Namet as Valmont is ideally cast, using his expressive eyes and body language to portray the nihilistic, pleasure-seeking and destructive seducer. Always watchable, he danced with ease and conviction and provided some excellent partner work.
Rachel Savage as Cecile Volanges portrayed such fragility and innocence in the beginning that her drunken state leading to her eventual seduction at the end was both tragic and pitiful and one that her well-meaning and unaware mother/relative Vanessa Volanges, warmly danced by Claire Pattie, was unable to prevent. Another powerhouse performance was delivered by Lisa Eastman as Amanda Tourvel, the second victim of Valmont’s seduction. Her dancing embodied the complete emotion journey of her character, from compassion to passion and final destruction.
The choice of music throughout- a film track I believe – was perfect, as was the balance of solo, duet and ensemble dancing.
It was a fantastic experience to be in the performance space with the dancers, feeling their every breath, absorbing their energy and watching the skill of their performance. Congratulations to everyone involved for the faith in what you were creating- you achieved what you set out to do with bells on!
Review by Sheila Arden
Dangerous Liaisons is running until 19th October at the Bridewell Theatre. To find out more visit their website.