Brilliant theatre, the kind that stops you dead in your tracks, awe struck, and, at once under its spell, this is exactly what Venus In Fur by David Ives delivers: but here it is made all the more awesome by the deft touch of Lightning Jar Theatre. It centres on two worlds that which slips in and out of direct consciousness with each other: each new scene brings with it tattered frays, that in direct response also become all the more tangled. The struggle between desire and what we are told we should aspire to, sexuality, politics, the body and ownership there of, all concepts which emerge well wrought, fleshed out and laid bare.
The original work by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was, at the time, sensational in its portrayal of its central character and his desire to be whipped by woman in fur, and, though originally penned in the 19th Century, its magnetism and material still proves relevant, and is, arguably, one of the most famous works of literary fiction. So, how has David Ives pulled the source material into the present day? He has done so by leaving trace elements like a tantalising trail of crumbs of which to devour, here the protagonist is now a young, somewhat earnest playright who finds his unlikely mistress whilst auditioning women in his New York loft.
A two hander, with actors Darcy Kent in the role of Thomas and Tilly Legge in the role of Vanda, both giving spectacular performances: the chemistry between the two performers is palpable and, you could cut the air between them with a knife. They slip in and out of the 19th century and present day narratives, with ease and the tension built in final scenes is intense and livid. Director Kirsten Von Bibra, knows the material well, and it shows, playing to the strengths of both performers, and bringing to the work something simmering and untoward.
Production values are high with switches between present and past realities continually heralded with flashes of lighting and deep rolling thunder. Making use of 45 downstairs to full effect, we are in some moments, within the young playwrights New York loft, bathed in harsh fluorescent, then only for the aesthetic to soften, and as the intensity builds we become awash in deep deep blue.
Work of this calibre does not come along often: in fact, this performance and this company have given audience an experience that will linger with you long after. As a performance it is as much classic as it is contemporary, not reliant nor needing to rely upon over the top production or any modern day technicalities – it’s solid, bloody good theatre and with us already a quarter way through 2018, Melbourne finally has a decent production to enjoy and to sink our teeth into.