Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Love with a jagged edge

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


FRANCE is drawing ever closer to its Revolution, tumbrels and guillotine – but in the segment of high society portrayed in Christopher Hampton's classic drama, thoughts are noticeably attuned to the more pleasing prospects of l'amour.

It is a scenario that could have been staged as a Carry On romp, but this is all pretty serious stuff, give or take a flirtatious dabble with doubles entendres at a point somewhere in the middle.

Stephen Downing's excellent company meets the challenges head-on, led by Richard Taylor's plausible rogue Valmont in his brittle and unpredictable relationship with the Marquise Merteuil so beguilingly crafted by Sue Downing.

These are two powerful performances, with Mr Taylor at one point repetitiously insisting that the situation is beyond his control, although he is in fact the string-pulling puppet master. And there is no suggestion that his huge responsibilities are really beyond his control or even approaching such a crisis. He bestrides the stage with power and purpose.


Ms Downing faces that power and purpose with quiet dignity and purpose of her own. This is a confident contribution to what could almost be called a two-hander at the heart of the wider action.

It would nevertheless be quite unfair to suggest that everything and everyone else is peripheral, but her partnership with Richard Taylor is what rivets the attention in the splendid team that is at work here – and its members are able to spread their wings on a set designed by Jen Eglinton and Stephen Downing that is stepped and interesting.

On the fringes at various times are Sandy Tudor (Mme de Volanges), Harriet Poulton (Cecile de Volanges), Pamela Meredith (Mme Rosamonde), Louise Fulwell (Mme Tourvel) and Patrick Bentley (Azolan). Mary-Jayne Jones presents a pretty face as a young courtesan.

But it is Gyuri Csete, as Chevalier Danceny, who turns out to make the most telling contribution of all. That is when things have become really dangereuses.

To 25-02-12.

John Slim 

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