French dressing

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IN the light of the current appetite for costume drama, Hasland Theatre Company’s production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses is timely - but Christopher Hampton’s restrained, razor-edged tragedy of manners and morals is much more than a parade of elegant waistcoats and beautiful frocks.

It would be easy to allow this barbed tale of intrigue and revenge to slip into melodrama, but director David Brooks has reined his cast back. The result is a graceful, understated production in which the rich subtext and innuendo are played, as they should be, absolutely straight. The cast cope with the long, wordy script with hardly a falter.

Nicky Beards’s scheming Marquise de Merteuil strikes the right balance of charm and acerbity, leading a largely female cast from the front.

Victoria Wilson is a revelation as fragile, tormented Madame de Tourvel, and Ann Hawkswood’s spiky Madame de Volanges provides excellent contrast.

Heather Davies as naïve Cecile is a delight, as is Becky Parry’s cameo as voluptuous Emilie; and Rachel Schofield ages well as Madame de Rosemonde.

There’s less for the men to do, but they do it well. Steve Cowley’s rather modern hairstyle strikes a slightly jarring note, but he plays brash, callow Danceny with style. Luke Ellis gives valet Azolan a sly wit.

Leading man Rob Dean is at first glance an unlikely Valmont; gentle humour is usually more his style than charming menace, but he pushes his own boundaries to produce a completely credible performance.

Add to all this the sumptuous costumes courtesy of Nottingham Lace Market Theatre, and a highly convincing sword fight towards the end, and Hasland’s new year is off to a fine start. The regular attenders who left gaps in the auditorium on the first night missed a treat.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is at the Playhouse on Storforth Lane until Saturday, January 15.

LYNNE PATRICK