Venus in Furs, 3***, London

by David Ives.

Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1Y 4HT to 9 December 2017;
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 90 mins No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7930 8800.
Review: William Russell 18 October.

Sex games round the mulberry bush
In an elegant New York penthouse apartment Thomas (David Oakes), director and writer of a new play based on Sacher-Masoch’s novel, has been holding auditions for the leading lady. It is late, a thunder storm is raging – the apartment has a magnificent skylight running the length of the room – and his girlfriend is waiting. Then in bursts Vanda (Natalie Dormer), an actress wanting to audition who has come prepared – under her coat the corset is everything a dominatrix would wear and in her vast laundry bag is the period costume she would wear as Vanda – they share the same name – in the play.

He resists, is all bossy male, she persists, he is intrigued, she will not take no for an answer, and they start to perform bits of the play in between performing bits of Mr Ives’ play which has enjoyed much success all over the place, although it is hard to see why. It all gets rather confusing.

There is, however, not faulting the playing. Ms Dormer, returning to the stage after five years, much of it spent making her name on Game of Thrones, is a magnificent figure of a woman, every man’s kinky boots clad fantasy, while Mr Oakes, last seen in Victoria, is a strapping lad, although, unlike Ms Dormer he does not undo so much as a button on his shirt. This is an evening for men who like to look at ladies in disarray threatening to beat them with whips and all the rest, which is fair enough but a little out of kilter with the current world of women revealing there are male predators in every profession. Patrick Marber, who secured a stunning Miss Julie from Ms Dormer when last she appeared in London, has directed it most effectively; te thunder storms are apocalyptic; and Ms Dormer and Mr Oakes are easy on the eye.

Both also emote splendidly in the circumstances as they perform the inevitable ritual dance in which roles get reversed and revenge, although it is never clear for what, is exacted.

Vanda: Natalie Dormer.
Thomas: David Oakes.

Director: Patrick Marber.
Set & Costume Design: Rob Howell.
Lighting Designer: Hugh Vanstone.
Composer & Sound Designer: Tom Gibbons.

2017-10-21 10:34:52

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