Venus in Fur

Previewed 6 October 2017, Opened 17 October 2017, Closed 9 December 2017 at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in London

A major production of David Ives' dark comedy Venus in Fur in London starring Natalie Dormer and David Oakes

"You don't have to tell me about sadomasochism. I'm in the theatre." Enigmatic actress Vanda Jordan appears unannounced for an audition with director Thomas Novachek. Sheís determined to land the leading role in his new production Ė despite seeming wrong for the part. Over one evening in downtown Manhattan their charged meeting becomes a seductive dance to the end. A dark comedy about desire, fantasy.... and the love of fur.

The cast for this 'two-hander' features Natalie Dormer as 'Vanda Jordan' and David Oakes as 'Thomas Novachek'. Directed by Patrick Marber with designs by Rob Howell and lighting by Hugh Vanstone.

When this production opened Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph said: "This is embarrassing. Ninety minutes in the company of Natalie Dormer... she's sensational... a tour de force that will surely put everyone under her spell. What she couldn't get me to do, though, is pile praise on David Ives's increasingly punishing two-hander... A pretty creaky vehicle but with a leading lady to die for cracking the whip. Worth a peek." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard commented that "in its favour, it has classy casting in the form of Natalie Dormer and David Oakes. Working against it is the awkward fact that too often it seems silly rather than sexy... as Patrick Marber's production, looking rather stranded on a too-large stage, misses some beats in the occasionally unclear script." Dominic Maxwell in the Times described how "there is more pain than pleasure to be had from this two-handed play about sadomasochism, gender politics and being a bit of a misguided male douchebag. The acting, though, is very much a pleasure... Natalie Dormer and David Oakes act the hell out of this 90-minute piece, but I'm not convinced it's worth their while." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper thought that "despite a pair of strong performances in Patrick Marber's slick production, this 90-minute two-hander never felt to me as dangerous or challenging in its determined tricksiness as it thinks it is... And the jokey/serious tone is curiously bland rather than jolting. The play wields the whip and tips the wink without drawing blood." Lyn Gardner in the Guardian highlighted how "Natalie Dormer is dominant in every way in this tricksy, mildly entertaining two-hander written by David Ives... a game of cat-and-mouse, an intricate two-step operating as a play within a play in which the power balance continually shifts."

Natalie Dormer is probaby best know for her role as 'Cressida' in the The Hunger Games: Mockingjay films as well for her role as 'Anne Boleyn' in the TV series The Tudors. David Oakes' London theatre credits include the role of 'Christopher Marlowe' in Declan Donnellan stage production of Lee Hall's Shakespeare In Love at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2014 and the role of 'Mr Darcy' in Deborah Bruce's stage production of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2013. David Ives' West End credits include co-adapting the book for the stage musical White Christmas at the Dominion Theatre in 2014. Patrick Marber's London theatre directing credits include Tom Stoppard's Travesties at the Apollo Theatre in 2017, Harold Pinter's The Caretaker at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2001 and Dennis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills at the National Theatre in 1996.

"What a weirdly underwhelming show this is. Natalie Dormer spends most of it in a leather basque and suspenders as Vanda, a kookily uninhibited downtown actress who has stumbled hours late into the loft of writer-director Thomas (David Oakes) to audition for his new adaptation of a 19th-century erotic novel. Not only is Vanda, despite her klutzy demeanour, word-perfect in the role - a proto-feminist femme fatale with a dominatrix streak - but she also knows rather a lot about Thomas's fiancee, Stacey. Quite what Vanda is up to in David Ives's 2011 psychosexual comedy is never made clear but the audience is invited to speculate on where the lines between creativity and fantasy, submission and control really lie... Yet the play's feminist overtones feel like empty flourishes, and despite Dormer's fleshily mesmeric - and very funny - performance, there is precious little animal magnetism in the air. You can't blame Dormer and Oakes: for all its psychosexual pretensions, the play is about as dangerously erotic as a Tory party conference." The Metro

"David Ives's Broadway hit is based on Sacher-Masoch's 1870 novel about sub-dom botheration, in which a gent becomes a willing slave to a haughty mistress. Unable to find the ideal actress for his adaptation, Thomas (David Oakes) is ending auditions when potty-mouthed Vanda bursts in, wearing a PVC bustier under her mac... Ives adds a load of gothic schlock: thunder rumbles at significant moments; Vanda uncannily knows the entire script and an awful lot about Thomas. The dialogue, especially Thomas's script, is risible, it's a shame that the director, Patrick Marber, didn't throw in a rewrite. The only reason to go is for Natalie Dormer's Vanda, moving from profane to polished in an instant, rummaging in her laundry bag for vintage kink like a naughty Mary Poppins." The Sunday Times

"In this kinky two-hander set in a Manhattan loft, Natalie Dormer gets to crack the metaphorical whip. She plays the ditzy blonde, out-of-work actress with a Noo Yawk accent, Vanda, who arrives late for a one-to-one audition with a male director. She cajoles this chap into hearing her read the female part in a stage adaptation of Venus In Furs, the scandalously erotic 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch... She puts on a period dress and a European accent and becomes every inch the noblewoman in the book. She demands that the director enacts the novelís male protagonist, who as a child was whipped with a birch rod and got a taste for it... As the director, David Oakes is a bit bland, but you can see the glint in his eye as the erotic charade of male submission is played out. David Ivesí play builds up a head of steam, shifting from comedy to feminist revenge drama. But then it falls apart totally and finally disappears, unresolved, up its own bottom. Playwright Patrick Marber directs with noisy flashes of thunder and lightning as if this is King Lear, which it certainly isnít. But itís about two-thirds lively entertainment. Thatís because Miss Dormer is so good in the part. She alone gives the evening its smack of class." The Mail on Sunday

David Ives' play Venus in Fur was originally seen on Broadway in 2012 for an eight month run in a production that was directed by Walter Bobbie and a cast that featured Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy - with Nina Arianda winning the Tony Award for 'Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play'.

Venus in Fur in London at the Theatre Royal Haymarket previewed from 6 October 2017, opened on 17 October 2017 and closed on 9 December 2017