Riveting, funny and sexy

2012-10-04 00:00


Venus in Fur

Seabrooke’s Theatre at DHS


VENUS in Fur is one of the most complex plays I’ve seen in a long time and requires two actors blessed with enormous ability to deliver every line. The result keeps you hooked from start to finish. David Ives’s Tony Award-winning play, which is set in a dingy New York office, opens with deeply frustrated playwright Thomas (Neil Coppen — Abnormal Loads, Tin Bucket Drum, Tree Boy) bemoaning the fact that there doesn’t appear to be a single actress in New York capable of playing the leading lady in his play, Venus in Fur, which is based on an erotic novel of the same name by Leopold van Sacher-Masoch.

Just as Thomas is about to shut his office, he finds himself face-to-face with extrovert actress Vanda (Janna Ramos-Violante — Mein Soldat, Don’t Dress For Dinner) who is desperate to read for the part, even though she missed her audition. Vanda manages to twist Thomas’s arm, but as she reads the part of Wanda von Dunajew (the heroine of Sacher-Masoch’s novel, which was published in 1870 and inspired the term “masochism”) the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power, love and sex become ever more blurred.

Ramos-Violante is one of South Africa’s most talented actresses and it takes someone with exceptional touch to handle the roles of Vanda, Wanda and Venus/Aphrodite, the goddess of love. She moves effortlessly from character to character in what is a brave performance — not only does she spend much of the play in little more than her underwear, but she’s also exposed on an emotional level.

Coppen’s performance, meanwhile, is a reminder, if one were needed, that he isn’t simply one of the country’s most talented writers, but is also a consummate actor.

Both he and Ramos-Violante have to master modern American dialogue and European speech from the 19th century, a task they manage with ease. And watching the pair’s sexy game of cat and mouse, which is played out by Thomas and Vanda and their historical alter egos, is by turns funny and riveting. Venus in Fur is a demanding, thought provoking, undeniably sexy play that leaves you feeling slightly off-balance. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, and if sado-masochistic erotica leaves you feeling uncomfortable, then it’s probably wise to give this one a miss. If, however, you like theatre that challenges you on every single level, then Venus in Fur is simply unmissable.

• Venus in Fur runs at Seabrooke’s Theatre until October 14. Show times are 7.30 pm Tuesday to Saturday and 2.30 pm and 6 pm on Sunday. Tickets can be booked through Computicket.

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