On the Fringe
Toad New End Theatre n Les Liaisons Dangereuses Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Wednesday 30 June 1999
Well-meaning, terminally upper middle-class, and politely resigned to life's horrors, she waggles her finger at the animal as if it were a misbehaving servant and attempts to banish it with the authoritative cry: "Out, do you hear me?"
Her problems with evicting the toad are compounded by her mother's delusion that the creature is a former lover - so where others can only hear croaks, Minnie's senile dementia allows her to hear love elegies.
And as if this weren't enough for Sylvia, her teenage daughter Sarah thinks she might be a lesbian. Pat Rowe's first play for theatre, Toad, dabbles in the murky waters of how mothers' mistakes can become daughters' tragedies, and comes up with some pleasingly untidy solutions.
Minnie's dementia exposes the complex web of emotions precariously holding her and her daughter together, and how Sylvia's do-gooding concern masks a desire to control and, so, take revenge on the mother who sent her away to boarding-school when she was eight.
Jacqui Somerville's gentle and funny production balances on Alwyne Taylor's portrayal of Sylvia, who reeks of metaphorical labradors and green wellies as she puts up a front to conceal the abandoned child within her.
The complexity of her bluff Englishness is highlighted by the inescapable Polishness of her mother - and Ruth Posner, herself a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, throws herself into the role of the exotic pensioner whose madness highlights a fantasy-world where she selfishly has no time for any scenario in which she is not the romantic heroine.
There is perhaps no work of literature that digs so insidiously at the concept of the romantic heroine as Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and its enduring fascination is being celebrated once more with a new adaptation of the novel by Patrice Lambert and Alec McCallum.
As the film world focuses on Cruel Intentions, which transforms Laclos's novel into an American 'teen flick, Tenth Planet Productions pays its own tribute to the novel's modernity by giving Valmont dark glasses and adding funky music. Alexander Holt's production embodies a certain degree of the book's malignant flirtatious flutter and turns in good performances from Harry Meacher as Valmont and Elizabeth Jasicki as Madame de Tourvel. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the garish set design and miscalculated music spoil it. Baudelaire famously said: "If this book burns, it burns as only ice can burn," but the production's tastelessness makes the ice seem merely to be dissolving in a glass of Bacardi and coke. If it forgot the innovation, and stuck to the flirtation, it might end up being a significantly better evening.
`Toad' (0171-794 0022) to 11 July: `Les Liaisons Dangereuses' (0181-340 3488) to 4 July
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 3 Jewish community urged to boycott Cornwall village after residents vote for 'Hitlers Walk' sign to be reinstated
- 4 Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing gay-rights campaign snubbed by Prince William and Kate Middleton
- 5 Kim Sears responds to swearing controversy with 'parental advisory' T-shirt at Andy Murray's Australian Open final
Daniel Radcliffe deemed 'not marketable' without his English accent
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign