‘Venus in Fur’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by January 19, 2015

‘Venus in Fur’ is an unusual but highly entertaining, one-act play by Chicago-born playwright, David Ives. This Tony Award nominated play premiered in October 2011, but it was more than a year later before its first major production.

In true tradition, Black Swan State Theatre has been bold enough to give us something new and exciting. This first class ‘nested story’ can be seen in the Studio Underground, in the State Theatre Complex, Northbridge.

The 90-minute performances are nightly, with curtain up at 8.00 pm.

 

The scene is a comfortable, well-furnished living room, in an American flat, situated in a converted warehouse complex. The ceiling is high, the white walls arched, the floor polished concrete and a large copper heating pipe passes vertically though the room. (Set design by Patrick Howe).

 

       A massive flash of lightning, accompanied by an explosion of thunder (excellent soundscape, Brett Smith and lighting, Joe Lui) complements the pouring rain. There is a knock on the apartment door. The young man, Thomas (Adam Booth), answers it only to find a drenched young girl in a Parka anorak. This is Vanda (Felicity McKay).

       Vanda explains that she has arrived for her audition reading – several hours late. Even though Thomas has just seen three dozen unsuitable actors, and is desperate for someone to play the female lead in his adaptation of a German play, he is most reluctant to let Vanda read for him.

       Due to the weather and her pathetic story of her journey for this reading, he eventually relents. She explains how she loves the semi-pornographic script, and removes her coat to reveal a dominatrix outfit. Thomas is horrified at her sleazy interpretation of his treasured play adaptation, explaining that it is absolutely moral and character based.

      Will this director allow Vanda to audition for his play?

 

Local talent, Lawrie Cullen-Tait, is one of the few directors capable of presenting such a cleverly written play, in such an intriguing and riveting way. In the wrong hands, this could have been a long, boring struggle for the audience. Instead, with the magnificent actors capturing the ingenious script, their characters changed slowly and cleverly throughout the play, giving huge depth and interest to the situation. The sub plot – which may be considered by some, to be the main theme – is that of sexual competitiveness and dominance, and was extremely well demonstrated. The production was a little bawdy, but still quite refined and filled with humour.

The two actors are young and relatively inexperienced (one WAAPA trained, the other from NIDA), but one would never guess from the powerful and assured performances that this was the case. The depth of raw characterisation and use of various foreign accents (Coach Julia Moody) showed great theatrical skills.

This was one of these plays that looked simple in its presentation but in the hours after the show, one started to really appreciate the immense skills exhibited in the dialogue and acting.

An unusual production, but one of true quality.