32 years after his first involvement with Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Court Theatre’s Artistic Director Ross Gumbley is back in the rehearsal room, directing the play that marked his first professional acting debut!
“I was in The Court’s 1987 production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” Gumbley says. “It was a very special production for me - it was my first contract as a professional actor! I look back on the play very fondly and can't believe it was so long ago.”
Gumbley, whose recent direction credits include Mum’s Choir and The Biggest, originally played the comic role of Azolan, one of the main character’s footmen.
“What remains with me is that it's always been an incredibly special play personally, so it was great to read it again and go 'you know, the time's right to bring this back'.”
Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ scandalous French novel was first staged in 1985, with its success leading to constant revivals and a film adaptation which won three Academy Awards.
Set just before the French Revolution in the late 18th Century, this classic story follows a group of aristocrats who are scandalous, devious and dangerously bored.
“The play has currency, because what people want hasn’t changed. Even though manners have changed, what we want at our core hasn’t. This play is about a society which has lost its sense of meaning and purpose and suggests that you better find that purpose and meaning yourself, because if you don't, the devil finds work for idle hands...”
With nothing to do but toy with each other’s emotions for fun, the delightfully debauched Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont plot together to ruin the reputations of two virtuous women. Their scheming hits a snag, however, when Valmont begins to feel true feelings for one of his targets.
Alongside all the drama, tragedy and dark comedy, audiences can expect sumptuous costumes and striking wigs from this extravagant production.
“This will be the poster play for our costume department this season,” Gumbley says.
For his production, Gumbley has gathered a ten-strong cast that includes Eilish Moran (Chicago; Mum’s Choir) and Fergus Inder (In the Next Room, or the vibrator play; Jesus Christ Superstar) as the two leads.
Amy Straker, Ailis Oliver-Kerby, Daniel Watterson, Hillary Moulder, Yvonne Martin, Kathleen Burns, Gregory Cooper and Ben Freeth are joining them to play the characters who become their pawns.
Speaking about her infamous character, Moran says, “Merteuil is a gift for an actor. She’s intelligent, deceitful, witty and cruel. A lot of the time she’s lying on stage, but for me it’s about working out the times – and they are few – when Merteuil’s true self appears.”
“She is certainly one of the most interesting characters I have played. Who knows, it is early days in the rehearsal room... she may end up being a psychopath after all! Come and find out!”
Les Liaisons Dangereuses runs at The Court Theatre from 22 June – 20 July. Find out more and book your tickets here.