The Queensland Ballet’s Dangerous Liaisons is not only a world premiere but it is also an amazing blockbuster of a show. The whole production just blew me away. It was the ballet’s premiere season and yet the choreography, the costumes and the music, made me feel I was watching an ageless classic.
It was genius on the part of Martin Yates to arrange the score for a ballet based on an 18th century novel with the music of an 18th century composer. The matching of music to dance made it look as if the music had been specifically composed for the ballet rather the compote of musical scenes from the composer’s work. It was as full of mood and movement as Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake or Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and had just as much power. Kendall Smith’s lighting added to the decadence of the times and Tracy Grant Lord’s costumes and set were simply stunning; elegant when needed and virginal or whoreish at the other end of the scale.
So the visuals set the scene which then exploded with Liam Scarlett’s choreography. It was sheer magic with flowing movement that switched mood from happy to sad, confused and angry. And the simulated sex scenes were abundant, starting with the widow on her husband’s coffin to an all-out orgy, where we saw mind boggling variations on a sexual theme. It was wonderfully choreographed and as erotic as anything I have seen on stage.
The story has been used in many different forms over the years. I have been the play and film version. But Scarlett’s treatment beat them all. It’s a tale of decadent French aristocracy, so rich and bored with life that only sexual conquest and malevolent scheming and revenge can tease jaded senses. The story revolves around the cold and heartless Marquise de Merteuil (Georgia Swan) who creates a bet with her former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont, danced at this performance by Joel Woellner, to seduce two innocent young women – the virginal Cécile (Mia Heathcote) and Madame de Tourvel (Neneka Yoshida).
But as usual the best laid evil schemes and people end up badly and bad things happen to bad people.
The dancers did the choreography proud with some extraordinary performances and the acting was of a very high standard. Joel Woellner was superb as the cold and calculating seducer He would, give Don Giovanni a run for his money. Georgia Swan matched his evil heart as the Marquise Merteuil. Their pas de deux were like dances of death. His dance of seduction with Neneka Yoshida’s Madame de Tourvel , was equally chilling.
But one outstanding performance came from company dancer Sophie Zoricic as the courtesan Victoire in the orgy scene. Where the bedroom was smouldering she sizzled with sexual energy as she danced with an assortment of suitors. Here, the music, the dance and the acting combined for something special. She is set for a big future.
Mention also must be made of Camerata, the orchestra led by Nigel Gaynor, which added the fire and brimstone to the impressive score.
I swear that this creation will end up a classic in its own right. Go and see it.
Dangerous Liaisons is showing at the Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane until 6 April 2019; bookings: qpac.com.au or phone 136 246.
For more of Eric Scott’s writings on theatre, check out Absolute Theatre
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Carmen & The Firebird (Qld Ballet) – theatre review
- 4 Seasons (Expressions/CCDC) – theatre review
- Shanghai Ballet’s Swan Lake (Regent) – theatre review
Eric Scott is a Brisbane-based entertainment and travel writer, playwright and novelist