‘Venus in Fur’ is a play-within-a-play. The original play was written in 1870 by Austrian playwright, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the book inspired the term ‘masochism’, so is a drama for adults only. At the age of 60 yrs., American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist David Ives adapted the script into a fine blend of humour, mystery, and sensual fun. This new play premiered in New York 2010.
This excellent production is now being staged by the Melville Theatre Company at the Melville Theatre, at the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, in Palmyra.
The 110-minute performances have curtain up at 8.00 pm each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night until Saturday 3rd march. There is one matinée on Sunday 25th February at 2.00 pm.
The scene is a well-furnished rehearsal room, in a converted warehouse complex in New York City.
The ceiling is high, the walls are painted black and white. The floor is polished concrete. A large copper heating pipe passes vertically though the centre of the room. A large window with panes of coloured glass, reveal the massive flashes of lightning, accompanied by thunder. The very good set was built by Trevor Dhu and Rex Gray.
Lars Jensen’s complex and colourful lighting, was well designed, perfectly setting the changes of mood. Barbara Lovell smoothly operated the lighting. Trevor Dhu’s sound effects, especially of the thunder and pouring rain, were most realistic. Great teamwork by the two operators.
The choice of music, especially the Zombie’s 1964 opening number, ‘She’s not there’, was an inspired choice, as it summed up much of the story in one song.
The show was stage managed by Rex Gray and Sarah Christiner.
Young author, Thomas Novachek (Thomas Dimmick) is talking to his partner on the telephone, about the numerous auditions he had just endured, without seeing a single talented performer for either of the leads for the two-handed play that he just finished adapting.
Thomas was just clearing up when a young, bubbly and slightly dim girl arrived breathless, and carrying a massive laundry bag. She had spent ages trying to get to the audition, but was now about an hour late.
Vanda Jordan (Grace Edwards) begs to be given a chance, but Thomas is most reluctant. Then like the ugly duckling, flings off her outer garments to reveal a black leather, bondage outfit. Then her grim Bronx accent disappeared, and she turns into a beautiful swan. Her enunciation, delivery and acting skills surprise Thomas.
Vanda says that she learnt a couple of lines on the subway, on the way to the audition, but it becomes obvious that there is a lot more to this powerful, manipulating woman than meets the eye. Slowly their lives take on the roles of the audition piece.
Michelle Sharp’s costume choice was sexy and appealing.
The award-winning director, Trevor Dhu is one of the rare breed of directors, who will take a gamble, never simply going for the safe option. With several major productions to his name, Trevor’s last half dozen plays have been of varied genres, and of a complexity that demands total dedication.
The fact that the director chose a young woman who, despite having a WAAPA operatic education, has only been in one pantomime in the past few years, along with a new Murdoch theatre graduate, shows his good eye for spotting talent, and generously willing to take a risk on them. The result is two, truly outstanding performances. The chemistry between the actors was electric. This two-hander had the actors on stage for more than a hundred minutes, and yet there was not a single fluff or hesitation. The director had them filling the stage as they moved around flawlessly. Each performer had several multifaceted personalities to portray, Magnificent work.