Sunday, February 11, 2007

"Dangerous Liaisons" - February 2007

Saturday saw us back at the Citizens again for an enjoyable performance of “Dangerous Liaisons” by a second set of Reid Kerr students following our midweek visit to “The Crucible.” As always, the content of the following review is based on the same standards used for “professional” theatre - I don’t believe it helpful to anyone if we “make allowances” because it is a youth/student/amateur production.

The cast really had the measure of the Circle Studio and their performances and vocal levels were spot on for the intimate setting. Our three lead characters of Valmonte, Mdme de Mertuil and Mdme de Tourvel all gave good central performances but while Valmonte and Mdme de Tourvel seemed to have everything “on display” Stacia Bantouvakis as Mdme de Mertuil gave a much more subtle performance with a greater suggestion of character depth and complexity. Both Martin Haddow as Valmonte and Elena Burns as Mdme de Tourvel did show hints of internal conflict in some of the major dramatic set pieces but I think for most of the play the decision to perform with strong accents took so much effort and concentration that it limited some of their other skills. Bantouvakis’s more natural accent seemed to have afforded her greater opportunity to produce a more three dimensional portrayal. Indeed Dylan Lewis as Valmonte's manservant benefited from sticking with a straight Glasgow accent and as a result brought a good deal of depth to his relatively small role and was able to showcase his obviously good timing.

I found much of the show uneven in tone, but without closer reference to the source material I’m unsure if this is the nature of the play or a flaw in the way it has been adapted. Much of it seemed verging on knockabout comedy and at times they went for what seemed the cheap gag rather than a clever one, and for me this didn’t sit well with the stronger scenes of violence later in the play to the extent that I found it uncomfortable - although I will accept that this may have been a legitimate intention of the cast/director.

The supporting cast all did their jobs well, including some young ladies who were incredibly brave to be quite so exposed in such an “up close and personal” setting. Lighting was used to good effect, as were musical interludes between scene changes, and the cast coped very professionally with a couple of minor irritations in the audience.

As stated at the beginning, this was an enjoyable evening and I think some of these guys could have a future in theatre, but I do wish that some of them would appreciate that the best acting is about more than an accent, gestures and volume control - the best actors in an intimate space like this can convey emotions with a mere look. But I guess that’s all part of the learning process and I’d happily return to see future productions from either of the two sets of student I’ve seen this week and that probably says more than anything else.