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The Play of Letters: Les Liaisons dangereuses on the Stage

  • Bill Overton (a1)


Christopher Hampton's play Les Liaisons Dangereuses, based on the novel by Laclos, was first produced at The Other Place at Stratford-upon-Avon in September 1985. It was immediately acclaimed, and after its transfer early in 1986 to The Pit at the Royal Shakespeare Company's London centre, the Barbican, both play and performers won several awards, including four for Best Play. In October 1986, with only a few changes of performer, the production further transferred to the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End. At the time of writing the Ambassadors production, recast, has opened to enthusiastic reviews, while the original production has achieved transfer to New York. Hampton's triumphant success in dramatizing Laclos's novel deserves the closest attention.



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1. London and Boston, 1985; rev. ed., 1986. All page references, which are given in parentheses, are to this edition, which presents the text the performers began with in their first rehearsals, taking no account of minor changes introduced as the production developed. References to the novel are given by letter numbers. There are two English translations in print, by Aldington, Richard, Dangerous Acquaintances, London, 1981 (1924), and by Stone, P. W. K., Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Harmondsworth, 1961. Quotations are from Pléiade, Laurent Versini's edition, in Laclos: Œuvres complètes, Paris, 1979.

2. Altman, Janet Gurkin, Epistolarity: Approaches to a Form, Columbus, Ohio, 1982, pp. 47, 5054, and 84.

3. See, for instance, Kinkead-Weekes, Mark, Samuel Richardson: Dramatic Novelist, London, 1973.

4. See Eaves, T. C. Duncan and Kimpel, Ben D., Samuel Richardson: A Biography, Oxford, 1971, pp. 126–45.

5. Altman, , p. 211.

6. Colette Verger Michael lists one film and three theatrical adaptations, all French, in Choderlos de Laclos: The Man, His Works, and His Critics: An Annotated Bibliography, New York and London, 1982, pp. 91–6. The East German playwright Heiner Müller's striking free adaptation, Quartett, was published in 1981 and first produced in 1982. It has been translated by Weber, Carl in Hamletmachine and Other Texts for the Stage, New York, 1984, pp. 106118.

7. On the Art of Poetry, in Classical Literary Criticism, trans. Dorsch, T. S., Harmondsworth, 1965, pp. 38–9.

8. Hampton's plays include The Philanthropist (1970), Savages (1973), and Tales from Hollywood (1983); his translations Tales from the Vienna Woods (1977), Don Juan comes back from the War (1978), and Tartuffe (1983).

9. See his review of Fanny Burney's Cecilia in Œuvres complètes, pp. 448–9, and his comments on Lacretelle's narrative drama Le fils natural, p. 494.

10. Martin, Graham and others, Dangerous Acquaintances by Choderlos de Laclos, Open University course A204: The Enlightenment, Units 31–2, Keynes, Milton, 1980, p. 50.

11. Thody, P. M. W., Laclos: Les Liaisons dangereuses, London, 1979, pp. 33–4.

12. Œuvres complètes, pp. 387443.

13. Martin, , pp. 21–2 and 27–8.

14. Thody, , p. 19.

15. In the introduction to Dangerous Acquaintances, p. 50.

16. Malraux, André, Préface (1969), Le triangle noir, Paris, 1970, p. 9.

The Play of Letters: Les Liaisons dangereuses on the Stage

  • Bill Overton (a1)


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