As we walked into the Unicorn Theatre, the intimate setting and authentic set brought us back to 18th Century France. The actors soon commenced a very entertaining performance in which they enacted a range of moods and emotions with which the audience could easily relate.
The costumes really were excellent with amazing attention to detail from the ladies' sparkling jewellery and extravagant dresses to the gentlemen's wigs and silk stockings. The appropriate music and swift scene changes by the footmen, led by Major Domo, added to the atmosphere
It was the actors however who truly brought the play to life. The Vicomte and the Marquise were well-matched, formidable adversaries. Their scathing looks and excellent use of facial expression were equally if not more effective than their verbal insults and long speeches. The Viscount's death scene was especially powerful and it was a credit to the actor that his dying words managed to draw sympathy from the audience for this roguish character. The Marquise was delightfully droll and her sharp "one liners" were very entertaining!
We thought the young ladies were well played. Cecile fulfilled her role as having "no character and no morals" excellently and Mme de Tourvel's swooning and wringing of hands were just right.
Mme de Volanges and Mme de Rosemonde played respectable high-class women and motherly characters with realism and sincerity.
Azolan was a mischievous young man and Emilie was a wonderfully scandalous character! We were also impressed with Danceny's charm and his part in the excellently choreographed sword fight.
The actors' diction was perfect and we could hear every word. They performed the play with good pace and timing and used the stage well. The creative use of lighting also enhanced the performance.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable night and we would advise anyone to pay the Abingdon Drama Club a visit.
Pre-revolutionary France provides the evocative backdrop for Christopher Hampton's play about sexual manipulation, desire and deceit, staged by Abingdon Drama Club. Hampton's adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos' novel charts the seduction of the willing Cecile and the demure Mme de Tourvel by the Vicomte de Valmont. Valmont begins the play as an unworthy, cynical pleasure-seeker. He is encouraged in his enterprises by his former mistress, La Marquise de Merteuil, who seems to share his cynicism, but who
has an ulterior motive.
It's a play full of sensuality and suspense but at times the stylish staging worked against it. The placing of the elegant furniture left the actors with quite a limited space in which
to perform this modern drama, and this resulted in some scenes being a bit static. It's also a play with many, often short, scenes, and the production punctuated these with what seemed at times unnecessary furniture shifting.
The performances were of a high standard, though, with Anna McNeil coolly calculating as the Vicomte's co-plotter and a pleasing cameo from Mary Hichens as Emilie. Christopher Kendrick did well in the challenging role of de Valmont, fighting an excellent duel against Philip Bower's Danceny, and acting a moving death scene. At times, though, he looked less comfortable as a serial seducer. Imelda McGhee and Helen Magnay were believable as the two targets for the Vicomte's lust. They were ably supported by Colette Lardner-Browne and Jill Calvert as Mmes de Volanges and Rosemonde.
Stephen Briggs - Abingdon Herald