By Regan Baker
Ballet sits outside my regular repertoire of theatre and dance attendances, so I wasn’t really too sure what to expect going into Liam Scarlett’s Dangerous Liaisons, but I settled in nonetheless with my ex-dancing partner beside me and a glass of wine at the ready! So here goes -
A story of incredibly complex and intertwined character relationships, Dangerous Liaisons is Queensland Ballet’s first production of 2019 and opened to stellar crowds at QPAC earlier this year, before commencing its’ regional Queensland tour at the HOTA theatre on the Gold Coast on June 14. Telling a story that has been captivating audiences for more than 200 years through script and screen, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (as it was originally known) was originally penned in 1782 by French author, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, before being turned into a Hollywood film in 1988 by Stephen Frears and starring Glenn Close. Now, in a World Premiere, under Artistic Director Li Cunxin and Choreographer Liam Scarlett, Queensland Ballet has brought Dangerous Liaisons to the stage!
Scarlett had an incredibly difficult task on his hands to convert a story that is very heavily driven by the written word (through letters of love and affair between characters) into a performance with of course, no speech. His keen eye for storytelling and his amazing choreography, however, did a superb job of relaying the deeply intense messages of love, betrayal and revenge through dance and the intimate relationships the characters shared on stage.
While I made the rookie mistake of not reading the story breakdown for Act 1, I still managed to understand the interlinking relationships between the characters and felt their pain and motivations speak through their dancing. I believe this to be a true testament of Scarlett’s choreography and the intense passion of all the dancers, if I, a Ballet-amateur, can still understand what was happening with no prior knowledge of the story.
While all of the dancers must be commended for their performance, an extra special mention must go to Laura Hidalgo in the lead role of Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil whose passion and intensity radiated in every Act. Her pain and jealousy were felt by all, and while her actions of revenger were wicked, one could not help but feel somewhat sorry for her. Mia Heathcote (Cecile Volanges) and Alexander Idaszak (Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont) must also receive high praise for their standout performances.
Going into the show I must admit that I had my reservations about the use of recorded music (as opposed to a live orchestra due to space constrictions), however HOTA’s acoustics and audio team are to be highly commended as the quality of the recording by Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, came across beautifully.
One must also not forget one of the most beautiful elements of the show and that is the incredible costume design by Tracy Grant Lord. The colour, style and elegance of each of the dresses were absolutely superb, while the men’s outfits were bold and strong. My only point of minor disconnect is that with multiple performers with similar hair colour and styles, the costume changes could sometimes make it hard to discern one performer from another when sitting further back from the stage. That being said, it did not at all take away from the performance as a whole and both my partner and I loved every second of it.
For only my second ever Ballet performance, I can not recommend Dangerous Liaisons highly enough. I will admit that initially I only signed on as a gift to my partner who loves the Ballet and casually dances herself, but the intensity, technical accuracy and brilliant costuming brought the show to life and helped even an amateur like myself enjoy the storytelling of dance.
Dangerous Liaisons Regional Tour travels to Cairns, Toowoomba and Mackay on specific dates until the 6th of July. Check Queensland Ballet’s website for more information because this is a show for Ballet lovers, and clueless partners alike, and is not to be missed!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.