Dangerous

You can almost smell the testosterone coming off the stage in this raunchy and sexy play, an all-male take on Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The original has a chequered history, starting in 1782 when Pierre Choderlos de Laclos published the novel to cries of scandal and immorality, and taking in numerous film and play adaptations on the way. Now Tom Smith has reworked it for a twenty-first century gay audience and so natural does it look that one imagines this is how it was always meant to be. We are now thankfully in an era when gay couplings do not have to be presented as politically correct, holier-than-thou relationships, and can be drawn quite fearlessly in the way they are here. The characters are all by turns lustful, indulgent, manipulative, weak-willed, selfish and cruel, and occasionally stark naked. Just like real life people, then. There are moments of compassion but the overall theme of Dangerous is power games, and pretty nasty ones at that.Presiding over the athletics is Matthew Blake as willowy Alexander Valmont, all beige suits, green socks and exposed chest, who is employed by best friend and rival Marcus (Luke Harris) to sleep with the young naive gym-trainer Jason (John R. Harrison) with whom Marcus’ boyfriend has cheated. Alexander agrees, demanding payment in sex from Marcus as a reward, but on the way he has his own challenge to mount, the merciless seduction of a young priest about to take holy orders. If the first assignment is merely mischievous, the second is barbarous beyond belief, destroying lives in its wake. Blake is magnificent as the imposing and controlling Alexander Valmont, a slime ball of a sexual conquistador, a man without conscience, scruples or any saving graces whatsoever. It is a superbly written part and he inhabits it like a snake occupies its skin. When he gets his just desserts in the penultimate scene, you want to cheer loudly, yet you do feel the tiniest measure of sympathy. He is as much a victim of his games as the master of them. Stewart Dunseith as Rosemonde imbues the character of the faded and dying owner of the Bournemouth mansion where much of the action takes place with wit, pathos and compassion. There is so much bed-hopping in Dangerous that one wishes the set had allowed for more space. Instead, half of it is rendered obsolete by a false wall decorated to look like a scrabble board, no doubt to suggest the games that are being played in front of it, but it just looks ugly and disconcerting. The costumes are colour co-ordinated to match the squares on the scrabble board, a design conceit that really does nothing for the play. I wish, too, that the scene changes could have been slicker. On a small stage, you really can’t afford the time to make beds and bring on tables and chairs unless you create a virtue out of the necessity. Here, the changes are just clumsy and time-consuming.Set and some production elements apart, Dangerous is worth seeing for its largely fine strong cast, its writhing serpentine narrative, its colourful characters, and enough male nudity to satisfy voyeuristic tastes. Don’t expect to come out with the cockles of your heart warmed. This is a wade through the depths of human treachery.

Reviews by David Scott

Godspell

★★★★★

Troy Boy

★★★★

Seduction

★★★★

The Blurb

A modern day all male adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.