Venus in Fur review

Theatre, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Natalie Dormer shines (in shiny boots of leather) in this preposterous Broadway comedy

If you really want to see Natalie Dormer in a rich array of kinky-by-numbers get-ups, then my god does this show deliver. David Ivess play, first seen on Broadway in 2011, feels like its almost entirely designed to showcase the talents of a female star in a sort of pre-watershed S&M storyline.
Its adapted from the 1870 Austrian novellaVenus in Furs which, like the Velvet Underground song it inspired, is awash withshiny shiny, shiny boots of leather and arch powerplay. But Ives has morphed the original into a kind of present-day audition room drama. Dormer plays Vanda, an actor whos hellbent on getting the lead role in an established playwrights adaptation of the story. Played with bland world-weariness by David Oakes, hes a bit of a sad sack: he doesnt trust anyone else to direct his work (always a bad sign) and genuinely believes that his source material is high literature.
Dormer unleashes a memorably powerful performance: she swaps adeptly between gauche ingenue and the controlled intensity of the dominatrix part shes reading for. Still, Im not sure how far Ives is satirising the tired trope of a pervy, controlling male director living out his fantasies on stage. Dormers character gets to call out some of his sexist assumptions, but her points are undermined by the truly ridiculous Noo Yoik accent shes been persuaded to adopt, and by her characters kittenish playfulness, spike heels and patent leather corset. 
Ultimately, her attempts to resist the time-dishonoured trope of the casting couch are outweighed by the outright sensuality of Patrick Marber’s production. It’s hugely funny, silly stuff, stuffed with nonsensical twist after twist, each one soundtracked by a clap of thunder. But a few weeks after the Weinstein revelations, is this really the story that the theatre industry needs? Heavens no.

By: Alice Saville

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