The 18th Century French epistolary novel upon which Christopher Hampton’s play is based has inspired numerous adaptations for stage, big screen and television, with the result that the biggest enemy of Josie Rourke’s near-impeccable revival is over familiarity. The play is perfect for the three-sided Donmar, Tom Scutt’s shabby palatial sets making us feel part of the goings on in the sitting rooms and boudoirs of the idle aristocracy in Louis XIV’s France. Janet McTeer dominates the production as the scheming and manipulative La Marquise de Merteuil who wrecks lives for nothing better than her own amusement and purrs at the devastation that she causes. Le Vicomte de Valmont is her former lover and co-conspirator, seducing women at will, but, as played by Dominic West, he is her lap dog, blindly obeying her commands against his own more noble instincts. Elaine Cassidy, Morfydd Clark and Edward Holcroft are convincing as the pair’s not quite innocent victims. Rourke’s achievement in her slick production is to tell a story that we feel we know too well, yet still make it absorbing.
Performance date: 4 January 2016