A couple of years ago, Roman Polanski directed his wife in a film adaptation of David Ives’ play, Venus in Fur. Set entirely in a darkened New York theatre, it was resourceful filmmaking, as well as a masterful display of acting and a critical success for the oft embattled director. Until now, its limited 2014 release also represented the first time that most Sydney arts lovers received a taste of Ives’ powerful piece.

Based on the 1870s novel of the same name by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher- Masoch, Venus In Fur is a play within a play. It opens on a dark and stormy night, with realistic sound (Jessica James- Moody) and blinding lightning (lighting design by Sian James-Holland). A pampered theatre director, Thomas ( Gareth Reeves), speaks on the phone to his fiance, bemoaning the lack of a decent actress to play his play’s heroine, Vanda. He’s about to leave, when out of the rain appears a brash, ditzy blonde who strips off her fur coat to reveal a fetching leather outfit and dog collar. Vanda (Anna Houston), as she introduces herself, is several hours late for an audition with Thomas, for a role in the play she describes as ‘basically S&M.’ She begs to be allowed to read and; despite his initial obvious disdain for her; Thomas soon becomes entranced by her period accent and interpretation of ‘his’ Vanda. However, Vanda’s declarations of ‘I’m just a woman’ turn out to be off the mark, as she reveals herself as a smart actress who draws the hapless director into a compellingly edgy game, the ultimate aim of which is to punish him for his apparent misogyny.



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