REVIEW: VENUS IN FUR (Theatre Royal Haymarket) ★★★

Sadomasochism. It’s not a common topic, although more so since EL James romanticised it in her fan fiction trilogy. What few people know however, is that the term comes from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, author of Venus in Furs.

This 19th century novella explores one man’s obsession with cruel women and how he asks to be dominated in an attempt to cure himself of his overpowering need.

David Ives‘ play Venus in Fur, directed by Patrick Marber, is based on Sacher-Masoch‘s work. One dark and stormy night, actress Vanda (Natalie Dormer) arrives at the studio of Thomas Novacheck (David Oakes) to audition for her namesake in his adaptation of the original play. But who is really in control here?

In a play about sadomasochism, it helps if the cast are sexy. And Dormer is sexy. She purrs and teases and dominates both the stage and production, leaving Oakes to submit to her attraction, not just to himself, but also to the audience.

The story, albeit predictable, moves along well and the build-up of sexual tension can be felt by all. However, when the climax finally comes, it is somewhat of a let down, despite the ride itself being very enjoyable. While there is some humour in the script, it feels slightly forced.

Oakes and Dormer cope well with what Ives throws at them, with multiple accents, role and gender swapping, and the scenery and costumes are perfect – dark and evocative.

It’s worth seeing for Dormer alone and fans of The Tudors or Game of Thrones won’t be disappointed by her performance (which is 5*) – I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I would happily submit to her at any time.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Darren Bell