Theatre Royal Haymarket (venue)
18 October 2017 (released)
24 October 2017
Originally a French play, then a movie by Polanski in 2013, Venus in Fur is quite an odd play. This American production, brought to you by David Ives, is coming to the West End for nine weeks and nine weeks only.
Thomas (David Oakes), a theatre director based in New York, has had a long day of auditions. He can’t seem to find the right actress to portray the female lead of his play, an adaptation from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s book on female domination and male submission. Suddenly and unexpectedly – and with a crack of thunder – appears Vanda Jordan (Natalie Dormer). She’s raw, a bit rude and she manages to force Thomas to read the play with her. He is not convinced but decides to give it a go and - oh wonder! - Vanda slides with ease in her part.
The play sometimes seems to be staged quite abruptly and the thunder breaking every time a change of power operates between the characters is probably not the subtlest way to indicate an important switch in the story. The most interesting aspect of the play is the fact that both the characters on stage and the characters of the play start to intertwine, to a point where you understand that Thomas is actually seeking a female dominant whilst Vanda might be much more than she appears.
Natalie Dormer is outstanding as Vanda. She effortlessly switches accents and goes from the cocky New York girl to the very distinguished and continental 1870’s countess in seconds. She is the light and soul of the play, owning every second with her presence and talent. David Oakes tries to keep up but ends up tagging along more than anything else. It’s not due to a lack of skills or talent but more to the empowering and strong incarnation of Dormer.
Venus in Fur was enjoyable throughout but its content and story felt a bit unsettling due to the Harvey Weinstein scandal: seeing a woman reducing a man to her slave for the whole 90 minutes of the show was a bit odd but maybe, strangely, a little satisfying too!