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venus in fur @ the eternity playhouse

Gareth  Reeves as  Thomas and Anna Houston as Vanda in  David Ives' VENUS IN FUR. Production photography  by Helen White
Gareth Reeves as Thomas and Anna Houston as Vanda in David Ives’ VENUS IN FUR. Production photography by Helen White

It is only a very brief time after we have taken our seats and the house lights have gone down that we are just taken over by the world of VENUS IN FUR.

The play’s action take place in a theatre rehearsal/warehouse space. The main features are a writing desk, (alongside is a small table with a kettle on top), and an expansive chaise lounge close to the centre of the stage.

We hear sounds of a wild electrical storm taking place outside- portentous that plenty of drama is also going to take place within these walls.

Our attention is drawn to Thomas, a jaded theatre writer/director who is trying to cast an actress for the lead role in a new play that he is going to stage, his adaptation of a nineteenth century S and M novel.

He is having a rough time of the process. We hear him on the phone to a friend saying that none of the actresses that have come through so far have been any good and that he doubts that he will find a suitable actress.

And then in through the door walks Vanda, a startling, attractive woman wearing a brown trenchcoat and carrying a mangled umbrella She has come to audition for the part and is coming on very strong.

At first Thomas is contemptuous of Vanda. He just wants her to leave. Vanda, however, won’t take no for an answer. In the end Thomas relents and an audition of sorts begins to take place.

As they start working on the script, we soon cotton on that there is much more to Vanda than she is revealing. How comes she seems to know so much more about the script than she should? Further, how come she knows so much about Thomas’ private life?

Where is this going? Brilliant American playwright David Ives has well and truly hooked us in….How is this going to play out?!

VENUS IN FUR, to use Bette Davis’ famous phrase, proves to be a very bumpy, action packed ride. Ives mixes things up so much to forever keep us hanging. What is equally rewarding is that the play delves deeply into the Battle of the Sexes…We are enthralled by the intriguing, mesmerising, sometimes dangerous and at other times very erotic dance that takes place on stage between Thomas and Vanda.

There is so much to this piece, so many different allusions and ‘ripples’ going away everywhere, that it would take at-least a few visits to take it all in.

Grace Barnes’ direction is flawless. She wins good performances from Anna Houston and Gareth Reeves. They totally inhabit and plumb the depths of their complex, many sided characters. Anna Houston employs a kind of creepy walk to personify her character.

Gareth Reeves’ Thomas comes across as an urbane, sophisticated thespian and then he shocks us by delivering a vicious, sexist diatribe Vanda’s way.

Barnes’ creative team do great work: Sian James- Holland’s lighting, Jessica James-Moody’s soundscape are both effective. As is Mel Page’s set and costume design. This is one of  these pieces where both actors are constantly changing garb which sometimes also changes the way that they behave.

Recommended. Easily one of the most exciting shows this year so far. VENUS IN FUR is playing the Eternity Playhouse until the 5th July.



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