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Review of Venus In Fur at Theatre Royal Haymarket

Natalie Dormer and David Oakes in Venus in Fur at Theatre Royal Haymarket. Credit Tristram Kenton
Natalie Dormer and David Oakes in Venus in Fur at Theatre Royal Haymarket. Credit Tristram Kenton

An exciting and captivating journey into the psychology of powerplay and dominance, TRH Productions and Scott M Delman’s production of David Ives’ Venus in Fur dresses to impress and hits exactly the right notes. An expose on gender roles and shifting perceptions of femininity, this production is a captivating tug-o- war with self-respect, power and authority at stake.

When Vanda Jordan knocks at the door, director Thomas Novachek thinks he has yet another nauseatingly clueless actress on his hands. Little does he know, he’s embarking on a dangerous dance that’s brimming with passion in all the right places – but for whom? Examining archetypical relationships of inequality; male to female, director to actress, deity to human, the piece demonstrates the transience of equality in relationships and explores early ideas of dominance, submission and untold desire.

Simply put, this production is riveting from the moment it sets out. Director Patrick Marber has constructed a simple yet functional vision within which to stage the piece, ensuring that the complexities of the script have ample room to develop and that the rich and playful concepts within are explored to their fullest potential.

A 90-minute sprint, there is little time to settle into the production. No sooner do you find a rhythm or sense of structure, you are jolted back to attention by a shift in power or a game-changing exchange. As a result, the production is extraordinarily engaging and maintains a sense of tension throughout, relieved at regular intervals with impeccably timed humour.

Intrinsic to the atmosphere of the piece, Hugh Vanstone’s lighting is exceptional. The notable shift between fluorescent room lights to ‘stage lighting’ documents the transition from reality to performance. However, as the walls between the two begin to crumble, so too does the distinction in lighting, with additional atmospheric effects and elements added to further extend the fantasy.

Natalie Dormer and David Oakes excel in this fervent two-hander. Game of Thrones star Dormer is simply magnificent, balancing the brash and playful Vanda with her composed and sophisticated character counterpart. Her versatility and effortless ability to swap between characters on stage is rivalled only by her proficiency with accents. Her presence on stage is demanding of attention yet conveys class and sophistication in the ‘racier’ scenes, ensuring the production retains its integrity and isn’t lost in the pursuit of ‘shock value’. She truly smoulders in Rob Howell’s magnificently designed (and contrasting) costumes.

David Oakes’ Thomas beautifully matches the energy of Dormer’s Vander on stage, demonstrating a strength and dominant presence when required but transitioning in response to her shifting status. Likewise, his effortless transition between life and reality matches Dormers and results in a dynamic and chemistry fuelled partnership, which is as enticing as it is unnerving.

A stunning production of a thrilling and captivating story, Venus in Fur is a challenging and exciting piece for the intellectual theatregoer. The twist is somewhat foreshadowed by the ‘play within a play’ context, however, the sincerity of the performances and the breakneck pace at which the narrative develops ensures that even if you see it coming, the gratification upon arrival is still very much there!

5 Star Rating

Review by Cassandra Griffin

Enigmatic actress Vanda Jordan appears unannounced for an audition with director Thomas Novachek. She’s determined to land the leading role in his new production, despite seeming wrong for the part. Over one evening in downtown Manhattan, their charged meeting becomes a seductive dance to the end.

Directed by Patrick Marber, designed by Rob Howell and with lighting by Hugh Vanstone, VENUS IN FUR is an intoxicating dark comedy of desire, fantasy and the innate love of fur

VENUS IN FUR
Booking Period: Friday 6th October to Saturday 9th December
Running Time:1 hour 30 minutes – NO Interval
Age limit:14+

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