Greg Lindsay-Smith and Ginny Porteous in Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Sexual intrigue and sparkling performances make for a strong return for the Maddermarket Players in their first post-Covid production.

Set in eighteenth century France, it charts the despicable conduct of one-time lovers who get their sport interfering in the relationships of others, and especially traducing the reputations of those perceived to have wronged them – whatever the collateral damage.

Ginny Porteous is steely and resolute as the plotting Marquise de Merteuil, as she manipulates her co-conspirator the Vimcomte de Valmont into corrupting the young Cecile, fresh from a convent.

As Valmont, Greg Lindsay-Smith is a captivating stage presence, with a manner that is both seductive and sinister. With Porteous, he presents a gruesome twosome that we can’t help despise, yet feel strangely sorry for.

Olivia Knight as Cecile doesn’t have much stage time, but does her best with the morally dubious central plot device that sees her forced transformation from na├»ve nunnery dweller to eager sex kitten. The director’s notes allude to the MeToo movement, but the implication of the plot couldn’t be further from that revolution, and it is a difficult scene to reconcile.

The other characters are also comparatively thinly written, but the main supporting cast of Richard Vojvoda, Ed Rowan, Jo Hipperson, and Jenny Belsey acquit themselves well.

Director John Holden has chosen a different ending to the popular film version of Christopher Hampton’s play; it’s moral ambiguity is perhaps more fitting, but less satisfying.

The production itself is certainly rewarding and darkly entertaining, and a welcome return from this talented group of actors.