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Production

Dangerous Liaisons

Company

Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble

Reviewer

Fong Li Ling

Date

02/20/2005

Time

8.00pm

Place

Victoria Theatre

Rating

***1/2

Risky Rendezvous

With all the songs that tell of love and loss these days, it is really quite hard to grasp the true meaning of love. Such an intangible thing it seems to be.

Dangerous Liaisons makes the notion of love even more complicated.

It is generally believed that women are at the losing end when a relationship is terminated, because we are a more emotional species. Yet that doesn't seem to be the case for la Marquise de Merteuil.

The Marquise is a scheming woman who has always had an upper hand in the games of love she plays. Her captivating personality makes it difficult for men to resist her charms. Enter her equally alluring accomplice, le Vicomte de Valmont - wealthy, hedonistic and ruthless. These ex-lovers set out to destroy the innocence of Cecile de Volanges, a convent-bred 15-year-old, and also the virtue of Madame de Tourvel, a married woman known for her strict morals and religious fervour.

Tan Kheng Hua, who acted as the conniving Marquise, had the chance to show off her physical prowess, literally. A monologue about how she has invented her public self sent her climbing and twirling on the posts of the swings on the set as she spoke. I have to admit that I was impressed at how she was able to go through the entire routine without even panting. Unfortunately, the stunts overshadowed her general performance. Andrea De Cruz, on the other hand, did a memorable job as the delicate Madame de Tourvel without executing fancy moves of any sort. De Cruz had strong stage presence and her performance was made complete with good delivery of the classical-sounding language.

Goh Boon Teck's use of swings and slides as main props on stage was creative. It not only suggested that love is a playground, especially for the protagonists, it was also a rather novel approach to take, staging a play set in the eighteenth century in such a way. The playful set may have been a tad incongruous with the weighty issues the play discussed, yet at the same time it cannily brought out the fact that love can indeed be dangerous. However, the swings did pose a slight problem in terms of blocking, which director Beatrice Chia had presumably chosen to sacrifice for a the sake of a more interesting presentation of the play.

The production crew certainly put in a great deal of effort to create a continuous flow of sights and sounds for the performance. Each section of the play was presented in a different colour scheme: airy-fairy pink in the beginning, deepening to a plush red as the play progressed to its climax, and finally an ominous dark blue. The aesthetics of the performance contributed a pleasing flourish to the already-full script.

Chia has taken the risk of staging a highly complex and deep play, and I say it was a risk well-taken. Christopher Hampton's play allows the audience to encounter lust, sex, power, manipulation and love all in one sitting. Its view of love is pessimistic, and yet it posits that no one can escape it nonetheless.

In this production, the audience was not offered a spectacular, jaw-dropping performance, but I believe it gave them quite a ride and something worthwhile to consider about the funny thing we call love.


"The audience was not offered a spectacular, jaw-dropping performance, but I believe it gave them quite a ride and something worthwhile to consider about the funny thing we call love"

More Reviews of Productions by Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble

More Reviews by Fong Li Ling

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.