Venus in Fur - Court Theatre
Theatre schedules are, for obvious reasons, set in stone rather a long way in advance of the first time anyone sets foot on stage. Venus in Fur is no exception, waiting in the wings for its time to shine, but you may be forgiven for thinking that its programming was too timely to be coincidence in light of two current events...
First, the current situation in Hollywood. I say current only in respect of the current media storm, not the problem itself. It has put a whole host of issues front of mind, and has the world talking. This is an issue too important to be relegated to one sentence, but too complex to do justice in this particular forum - and this is about Venus In Fur. That said, it is timely because Venus in Fur touches on questions of power, advantage and control, borne out of a similar context to the current allegations.
Second, Natalie Dormer is currently starring in the same production in London at the Theatre Royal. I do not watch Game of Thrones (I know! I don't drink coffee either!) But I did watch the Hunger Games: Mockingjay (both parts) and have read enough of the internet to know she is "Very Famous". Her turn in the show has received a lot of media attention and by all accounts is exceptional. This attention has hopefully piqued the interest of those locally, given we have our own performance on our doorstep. I unfortunately didn't shoot over to London to catch Natalie's performance (my loss) so have no point of comparison, but our local version is thought provoking, visually stunning and displays two captivating performances by the two (and only) leads.
Venus in Fur is a play in one act, written by David Ives and well, its pretty sexy. I will admit to having read 50 Shades of Grey (yes all of them - which are filed in a folder on my Kindle titled "Embarassment") and Venus in Fur draws inevitable comparisons given the subject matter, but its much deeper than just that. Fans of the genre will get what they paid for, but isn't simply the stage version of chick lit. I enjoyed going in knowing the general themes but not quite knowing what to expect plot wise, so I'll say no more on that front - but it is a play with many levels. You can enjoy the story and performance on one level, but for those who want to go deeper, it could be the topic of endless discussion.
The set is striking, with long windows at one end of the space being drenched with rain - the weather is almost a third character with its participation amping the drama and ambience at key moments. Jessie Lawrence as Vanda is truly spellbinding. Honestly. Daniel Watterson is equally compelling as Thomas. Both are funny and dramatic in equal measure - seamlessly flipping from one to the next and back again as easily as Vanda swaps outfits. The dialogue rivals the Gilmore Girls for quantity and speed and not a beat was missed.
There is one moment (no spoilers) where Thomas is zipping Vanda into a pair of quite intimidating, thigh high, leather-ish, black boots. He takes his time, and everything is basically silent but for the sound of the aforementioned zip. Someone in the row in front of us clearly found it a bit hot to handle and had to break the tension by making a loud comment I didnt quite catch but found amusing nonetheless. The production choice of silence was undoubtedly effective, though given the steaminess of the moment, they may equally have opted for a sudden blast of Nelly's seminal classic "Hot in Herre". Its what we were all thinking...
I don't feel qualified to go into a deep analysis of the themes, particularly how they relate to the current discussion being had around the world - but this play is sure to get you thinking. It is overwhelmingly worth a view for anyone who has had their thoughts provoked by the #metoo movement. Arguably, it could be of equal, if not more important viewing for anyone who hasnt.
The many discussions which could be had after seeing this play aside, if you only take one thing away from Venus in Fur, in Vanda's words - "dont f*&k with a Goddess.