I was going to suggest that you don’t try this at home but, on second thoughts, perhaps you should. You never know what miracles it may achieve in the bedroom.
Even the Queensland Theatre Company’s matinee audience, famous for their conservatism, roared with laughter and appreciation at this high-class piece of porn, which has enough layers and subtleties to satisfy the most discerning intellect. And black leather suspender belts will be walking off the shelves in Brisbane shops.
And high-class it is, in every respect. The cast, with Libby Munro as the aspiring actress Vanda and Todd MacDonald as Thomas, the equally aspiring writer-director, never put a foot wrong, and there’s a lot of foot-work one way and another, both with and without platform heels and thigh-high fuck-me patent leather boots.
Simone Romanuik’s set, a seedy basement room in New York, has nothing of the casting-couch scenario that seems imminent, as Vanda arrives late for an audition, inappropriately clad in the sexiest black leather I’ve seen in a while. Thomas, already disillusioned about the quality of the actresses who have turned up during the day, is about to go home, but Vanda shrieks and begs like a Manhattan whore until he lets her read three pages of the script, which she pretends she knows nothing about. All-in-all, she is the most unpromising candidate he could imagine, but slowly the rules of the game change and the plot becomes a power play between both of them.
In one sense, Thomas appear to be simply a wanna-be playwright, out of his depth in this complex world that Vanda creates, but as she twists and turns the 19th plot into a present day reality drama of sexual predation and he becomes her willing sex slave, we never know how much is real and how much is erotic fantasy — on the part of the playwright, the actors, or us.
And that’s the trick if this very cunning play, that it leads us unknowingly into becoming part of the psycho-sexual drama that’s going on, and we are left as confused — and unsatisfied — as in a dream. The time shifts from the 19th century setting of Sacher-Masoch’s actual play of the same title, to its 21st century re-working by this imaginary playwright Thomas, to our perception of it in the here-and-now, are intellectually demanding, but make the play much more than just SM porn.
That’s why it works so well, because you can try to follow the intellectual challenges that the script offers, admiring David Ives’ dramatic craftsmanship, or submit to its sheer eroticism and get a sexual thrill out of it yourself.
A very challenging play, with assured performances subtly directed by Andrea Moor and, best of all, only 90 minutes long, so that it avoids the risk of becoming boring or over-confusing.
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The details: Venus In Fur plays the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC until July 27. Tickets on the venue website.