Venus in Fur is a play within a play inspired by Sacher-Masoch’s novel within a novel, Venus in Furs. The 1870 novella was a few decades ahead of its time exploring masochism – in fact it is credited for inspiring the term. Well into the twentieth century anything hotter than vanilla between the sheets still caused a stir… but those were the days BFSG (before Fifty Shades of Grey).
When Vanda Jordan (Janna Ramos-Violante) walks into a New York casting office awkwardly balancing two huge bags and a broken umbrella one can see she is completely out of place. From the trip of her tacky peep toe stiletto boot to the dog collar around her neck and the obnoxious voice – she has absolutely nothing going for her. Not even sharing a name with the main character can convince the play’s director Thomas that she is destined to embody the legendary Vanda in Venus in Fur.
Thomas has a clear vision for his adaptation and he needs the perfect Vanda to make this a reality. By sheer determination Vanda Jordan convinces him to let her read for the part.
But as the reading develops Thomas (Niel Coppen) becomes a mere stage prop to be wielded to Vanda’s liking. As the lines start to blur between the reading and reality not even an Inception style trinket, one that indicates reality when it stops spinning, could help him.
Initially the change of costume helps. Thomas has an exceptionally beautiful green velvet coat to transform him into Severin von Kusiemski. But the shift in power between the actress and her director goes deeper than this cosmetic change.
Like her character, Janna Ramos-Violante retains total control over her audience, enslaving them with a flick of her fur stole. Seeing a woman with this level of power is rare in entertainment, be it theatre, film or music. Ramos-Violante pulls it off most convincingly.
Venus in Fur is dark and disturbing. It is emotional voyeurism. See it if you dare.
Jana van Heerden
Venus in Fur runs at the Theatre on the Bay 5 – 22 June 2013.