In David Ives’ critically acclaimed Broadway smash hit play Venus in Fur, Natalie Dormer and David Oakes star in a limited nine-week run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 6 October.
This two-hander sees Dormer's Vanda Jackson arrive unannounced determined to audition for Oakes' director -Thomas Novachek - whose new production stars a character who shares her name. In this play within a play, characters are more layered than a bag of onions; but it is Dormer's Vanda(s) who steal the show.
Her dexterity both vocally and physically is masterful, switching from (Vanda) Jackson to von Dunayev in the blink of an eye, often to great comedic effect. Oakes is no wallflower either, but this is Dormer's moment. He rises to the occasion by the 3rd act but by then Dormer has already collared the audience.
The power play between characters is intense. Dormer and Oakes switch between dominant and submissive, adversarial and sexually tense; blurring the lines of which reality we are voyeuristically peering into.
This is a heady brew of intoxicatingly dark and sexy with perfect comedic timing but also dramatic weight- laden with desire and fantasy.
The underlying social and theatrical commentary is both timely and on point, speaking into, (but not preaching), the current (and historical) zeitgeist.
Hugh Vanstone's lighting was at times a bit heavy handed on the thunder and lightning effects, but it takes away nothing from the overall experience. It just intrudes at times where Tom Gibbon's sound design is so delightfully subtle.
Ives' script is well written, and Patrick Marber's direction is paced to perfection. Venus takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride fraught with twists and turns, bring them to the end point without losing anyone along the way. I was left with the thought: Wow. Well, that was something.
Hail Aphrodite! Indeed.
Venus in Fur tickets are available here.
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