I’m a simple gal. Offer me the Herald Theatre, a dash of sadomasochism (AKA S&M) and the promise of a play-within-a-play plot, I’m there.
David Ives’ Broadway sensation Venus in Fur recently opened at Aotea Centre’s intimate Herald Theatre. The two-person play is directed by Shane Bosher and focuses on an intellectually stimulating and suggestive interaction between two creatives.
Venus in Fur is set in New York City, resulting in admirable but sometimes optimistic accents from the two main characters.
Craig Hall plays Thomas, the playwright-turned-director who seems to have an arguably weird obsession with a nineteenth-century suggestive book. Morgana O’Reilly plays Vanda, a surprisingly adept actor dressed in leather and garters, who appears to encompass Thomas’s vision of his heroine – subtly also named Vanda.
Both actors supply outstanding performances, connecting the audience to eroticism in a rather provoking way. However, it is O’Reilly who is the standout of this small cast, easily overshadowing Hall with her bold delivery and no-holds-barred approach.
Dressed in next-to-nothing with an attitude to match, O’Reilly encompasses Vanda. O’Reilly’s role requires 100 percent commitment and the proficient actor doesn’t disappoint. Never faulting, O’Reilly oozes eroticism and class, encompassing both the eccentric Vanda actor and the mysterious Vanda character.
The set is a surprising highlight of Venus in Fur. The stage is dressed as Thomas’s office/rehearsal play. Thomas and Vanda never leave the stage, meaning this set stays in place for the entire 90-minute show. Admirably detailed, it is easy as an overlooking audience member to imagine you are peeping from above.
The pretend weather outside the space is authentically dreadful. This is achieved by extremely genuine storm effects of thunder, and rain running down the window. Vanda also changes the lights throughout the play, using a wall switchboard so realistic that I wonder if its an actual part of the theatre’s equipment.
For me, the main downfall of Venus in Fur is embarrassingly that it wasn’t erotic enough. If you promise me S&M, I want S&M! Yes, Venus in Fur is sexy, but it is more fifty shades of wit than Fifty Shades of Grey. In saying that, the whole crowd around me was made up of middle aged couples to the straight up elderly, so I can probably assume their desires were more catered for.
If you’re keen to check out this accurately self-described psychological striptease of play (and I highly recommend you book for both you and your mum/dad – just maybe in very separate seats), tickets are available here.
Venus in Fur runs from now until September 18.
cred: Michael Smith Photography