David Ives’ Venus in Fur is poetic philosophy, which, moulded by director Grace Barnes and lived by Anna Houston and Gareth Reeves is absolute artistry on stage. Venus in Fur at Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s Eternity Playhouse is the bees knees, folks. One of the best pieces of theatre for 2015.
Venus in Fur is an articulate, intelligent and spirited exploration of sadomasochism. Fifty Shades of Grey made BDSM commercial in the sense of familiarity but Ives’ Tony-nominated play brings a maturity of conversation that leaves the audience intellectually stimulated and ideologically torn.
We meet playwright Thomas and budding actress Vanda who – in this play-within-a-play – enact an adaptation of 19th Century novel Venus in Furs, the very text that birthed the idea of Masochism. The two weave through a minefield of power and manipulation. Who has power in a dominant-subdominant relationship – the submissive who gives over power or the dominant who holds it? Is the act of love the act of giving over power; of submission? Vulnerability is presented in a whole new light as Thomas and Vanda literally and verbally battle for power and control, and ultimately respect.
Ives’ words are poetry and the content of his thoughts are high philosophy. Just when you think you’ve come to the right judgement, he throws a curve ball that takes you back to the drawing board. Venus in Fur is a thrilling intellectual debate beautifully framed and paced by director Grace Barnes. It’s almost musical the way Houston and Reeves flow through the piece; and both Jessica James-Moody’s sound design and Sian James-Holland’s lighting design intensify the score’s crescendos and diminuendos with bouts of terror and sensuality.
Venus in Fur is a mighty piece for two actors and Houston and Reeves’ are excellent minds and shoulders to carry such a great task. Houston’s tiny frame commands great power and her dynamic command of Vanda’s almost schizophrenic beat changes exemplify her brilliant craft as an actor. Reeves’ Thomas is the right balance of cad and crooner, and he pleads his case so earnestly we can’t help but feel for the love-sick prisoner of his own desires.
Theatre is best when you leave it with an expanded mind; with an additional way of viewing the world and navigating your place within it. Venus in Fur offers this gift and comes highly recommended for a brilliant, funny and challenging night out that promises to be an entertaining talking point on the way home.
Venus in Fur
Eternity Playhouse, 39 Burton Street, Darlinghurst
Season continues to 5 July 2015
Bookings: (02) 8356 9987 or online at: www.darlinghursttheatre.com
For more information, visit: www.darlinghursttheatre.com for details.
Image: Anna Houston and Gareth Reeves in Venus in Fur – photo by Helen White
Review: Maryann Wright
Maryann Wright is a performer and writer. She has a Diploma of Musical Theatre from Brent Street and a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) from The University of Sydney. Recent performance credits include Subject To Change, Heart of a Dog (Australian premiere), Carrie (Squabbalogic) and Urinetown (Brent Street). Journalism credits include The Guardian, news.com.au and Girlfriend Magazine. www.maryannwright.com.au