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The company you keep may be dangerous

The season for plays, exhibitions, and anything else that is thoroughly cultural will soon be upon us. Gone will be the lazy days of August with outdoor festivals but little else to entice.

One event to take us back to the theatre and remind how thrilling a well written and well-acted play can be is Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) by Christopher Hampton, adapted from the 1782 novel of the same title by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

The play, which will be presented by Alpha Square for eight performances in Nicosia and one in Limassol as of Saturday, focuses on the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont. The two rivals and ex-lovers use sex as a weapon of humiliation and degradation while enjoying their cruel games and boasting about their manipulative talents. Their targets are the virtuous (and married) Madame de Tourvel and Cecile de Volanges, a young girl who has fallen in love with her music tutor, the Chevalier Danceny. To gain their trust, Merteuil and Valmont pretend to help the secret lovers so they can use them later in their own treacherous schemes.

The book is written as an epistolary novel and it is composed entirely of letters written by the various characters to each other. In particular, the letters between Valmont and the Marquise drive the plot, with those of their victims and other characters serving as contrasting figures to give the story its depth. At the time of its publication, the book was viewed as scandalous. The real intentions of the author are unknown, but it has been suggested that Laclos’ intention was the same as that of his fictional author in the novel – to write a morality tale about the corrupt, squalid nobility of the Ancient Regime. However, this theory has been questioned on several grounds and it was not considered political until the events of the French Revolution years later made it appear as such.

Hampton’s play was staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company for the first time in September 1985 and in 1987 it went to Broadway. Hampton also adapted the play for the screen in 1988. The film starred Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. It won three Oscars out of the seven nominations it received at the 61st Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay.

The play, which is translated into Greek and directed by Andreas Araouzos, will be performed in Nicosia every Wednesday through Saturday from September 1 until September 15. The performance in Limassol will be on September 16 at the Rialto Theatre.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Performance of the play by Chirstopher Hampton. September 1-15. THOC Warehouse, Kampou 29, Strovolos, Nicosia. 8.30pm. € 13/16. In Greek. Tel: 22-480300
September 16. Rialto Theatre, Limassol. 7.30pm. € 13/16. In Greek. Tel: 77-777745

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