When this production of the 2010 play by David Ives was announced, I saw that David Oakes was starring and I definitely wanted to go and see it. Natalie Dormer’s presence was also a draw, given I’m a big Game of Thrones fan.
The premise of Venus in Fur doesn’t sound much. A writer-director, Thomas Novachek, is struggling to find a woman to play the main character in his new play, adapted from the novel Venus in Furs by Sacher-Masoch, the man who gave his name to masochism. Enter a fast-talking young American actress, Vanda Jordan, late for her audition, who convinces him to let her read for the part, with Thomas in the lead male role.
Despite not impressing at first, it soon becomes clear that Vanda is ideal for the part: she switches between brash American actress and nineteenth-century upper-class ice queen seemingly effortlessly. What is obvious to us, but doesn’t occur to Thomas until much later, is that Vanda is the incarnation of the goddess Venus, or Aphrodite. Little by little she wins Thomas’s attention. Taking on the roles of the two main characters in the play-within-a-play, the pair act out the tale until art is barely distinguishable from life.
Full of quick-fire wit, the play is greatly entertaining with two compelling performances: Dormer is particularly good at switching between her two personas. The misogyny of Thomas’s character and the play is constantly subverted by Vanda’s commentary and interpretation. The set is a simple attic room, which to be honest is all that’s needed, while Patrick Marber’s direction makes the most of the special effects.
I hadn’t really known what to expect when I went to see this, but what I got was an absorbing play which kept me engrossed throughout. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth seeing.