Where: Metro Studio, corner of Quadra and Johnson streets
When: Friday, 7: 30 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. and 7: 30 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.
Tickets: $24, $20, $15 (at ticketrocket.org)
It's safe to say the words "decadent" and "Canadian College of the Performing Arts" rarely appear in the same sentence.
CCPA students are renowned for being song 'n' dance whiz kids. Graduates include squeaky-clean pop star Carly Rae Jepsen. Typically, the resumes of alumni are dotted with mentions of breezy musicals.
Enter Dangerous Liaisons, set to be performed by the college at the Metro Studio this weekend.
Guys and Dolls it ain't. Decadent it certainly is.
Most of us remember the 1988 film adaptation of the play, starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich. It's the story of Marquise de Merteuil (Close's character) who hatches an evil plot with Vicomte de Valmonte (played by Malkovich). Valmonte sets upon a devilish path of seducing innocent women, charming them with his sociopathic charm. Originally allies, Valmonte and Merteuil ultimately declare war on one another, setting off a chain of events so nasty and salacious, one feels like taking a shower after witnessing their shenanigans.
The play, originally titled Les liaisons dangereuses, is by Christopher Hampton, who in turn based it on a French writer's 18th century novel. While not exactly period, Hampton's language is ornate in this text-heavy play. It's a tall order for professional actors, let alone novices, says Glynis Leyshon, who guest directs the show.
"It's a long-haul text and it's long-haul story-telling," she said before a rehearsal at CCPA's Oak Bay studios.
"But I think it excites them and they're challenged by it. It's been three weeks of rehearsals; not a long rehearsal process. But where they've come, [compared] to where they started from, has been pretty extraordinary."
The play is acted by students in CCPA's Company C program. These are advanced students who've already completed two years at the college. They're fortunate to be directed by Victoria's Leyshon, one of Canada's leading theatre and opera directors. A former artistic director of the Belfry Theatre and the Vancouver Playhouse, Leyshon has extensive experience with both classical and modern theatre.
Dangerous Liaisons is subtler and more sophisticated than much contemporary drama, which is typically plain-spoken and emphasizes confrontations. In this drama, characters say one thing and mean another; irony and sarcasm rule the day. For the young actor, conveying such nuanced dialogue successfully to audiences is a challenge.
Leyshon says she's taken a back-to-basics tack in directing the 14 students in Company C. Her approach has been to focus on the words. Clear articulation comes first - everything else follows.
"It will be, 'What does this monologue mean? How do you break it up? How does an actor approach it?' " she said.
Dangerous Liaisons takes place in opulent boudoir and salon settings in the 1700s. The CCPA has borrowed set pieces and a revolve stage from the Belfry Theatre, as well as costumes from Pacific Opera Victoria.
The student harpsichordist accompanying performances received coaching from the Victoria Conservatory of Music.
Everything is done on a tight budget.
"We're still doing a deconstructed version. ... It's not going to look like Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette," Leyshon said, laughing.
"My expectation is not that you're going to say, 'Oh, Glenn Close came nothing close to our production.' But hopefully, we'll have told the story clearly and accurately. And passionately." email@example.com
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