Venus in Fur – Theatre Royal Haymarket
Cast: Natalie Dormer and David Oakes
Running Time: 90 mins, no interval
After a highly lauded Broadway run, Venus in Fur transfers to the West End starring David Oakes and ‘Game of Thrones’ star Natalie Dormer. The plays charts the meeting between writer Thomas and Vanda Jordan, an enigmatic actress who wants to play the lead in his latest piece. This leads into a game of cat and mouse, with the power slipping between the two of them.
The plot of the piece is not the strongest – it walks a tightrope between masochism, erotica and occasional campness, and occasionally overbalances. The power struggle at the centre is not fully convincing, and there does seem a gender imbalance in the amount of skin that ends up on display (which is surprising given the “twist” ending is fairly obvious from the start.
Dormer is fantastic given the source material – she is funny charismatic and versatile and gives the role more credibility than it would have on the page. Oakes does an average job, however he probably does not match his co-star, though the play on the page does not give him as much to play with other than slightly pervy writer/director (which is unfortunate in the light of the recent Weinstein and Max Stafford-Clark revelations.)
The set and the lighting of the piece are good and suitably realistic, and they are ably directed by Patrick Marber, though possibly it could be argued that one stylistic choice does make the “shock” ending slightly obvious.
Summary: A Broadway hit that fails to land in this production, even with good central performances. Disappointing. ***