A true Venus


The Amorist is a big fan of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s key text on sexual power-play, Venus in Furs, and the equally power obsessed TV series, Game of Thrones. So she was thrilled to see Natalie Dormer (feline Margaery Tyrell in GoT) don a PVC corset to play Vanda Jordan in David Ives’ darkly erotic comedy Venus in Fur (singular – a translation point which is explored in the drama). 

This is a play within a play: Thomas Novachek, a self-regarding director and playwright, has adapted Sacher-Masoch’s novel for the stage but is first seen on the telephone, lamenting the fact he hasn’t auditioned any truly sexy actresses. Echoes of the Harvey Weinstein scandal are hard to ignore. Then Vanda turns up in the middle of a storm – unannounced, unscheduled, with a broad New Jersey accent, bearing the same name as the novel’s heroine and, as the audition proceeds, increasingly unbridled. 


The play’s an intense two-hander, so a high level of sizzle is asked of the leads. David Oakes is charming, but slightly underpowered as Novachek. Dormer’s Vander, on the other hand, is a crackling vortex of sexual electricity. The Amorist and her companion could not take their eyes off her – even if some of that time was spent trying to calculate the span of her tiny trussed waist. Dormer also has impeccable comic timing – driving home the point that few thing are more powerfully seductive, and perhaps dangerous, than a sexy broad with a sense of humour. Indeed, such a woman may even be worthy of some claim to be a goddess.


Natalie Dormer in Game of Thrones

Venus in Fur runs at 90 minutes without an interval, leaving a good amount of time for a sparky debate about doms and subs in the pub afterwards. The Amorist has never been much of a dungeon activist. She leaves that to Rebecca Newman, who writes the magazine’s 'Beginner’s Guide to S & M'. But if she was going to get into that kind of contract, she’d rather be the person wielding the whip. It's debatable if that's because a dominatrix gets to wear such cool gear, or if it just gives you a better work-out. Watching the play, the Amorist was reminded of the fact that Sacher-Masoch’s hero, Severin, loses his desire to be submissive at the novel’s end. He laments: 'That woman, as nature has created her, and man at present is educating her, is man's enemy. She can only be his slave or his despot, but never his companion. This she can become only when she has the same rights as he and is his equal in education and work.'  A mere century or so later and many women the Amorist knows can happily be both dominatrices and companions. That I suppose, is some form of progress – despite Weinstein. Rowan Pelling


The actors at the after-party

If you smoke after sex, you're doing it too fast
Woody Allen