No, not “Venus in Furs” !
It is “Venus in Fur” without the ‘s’.
It is not a play of the book. Well it is, indirectly.
This is a stage play – and a film now – about a stage director who is auditioning actresses for his own adaptation of the book “Venus in Furs”, and almost in despair of never finding the right one, allows a final audition to an outwardly trashy actress, who not only surprises him by her amazing acting as the play progresses , but also completely turns his life around.
Confused yet? I was when I first heard of the play. Like many outside the theatre-going public it was when film director Roman Polanski announced he was going to produce his own adaptation in a French translation, with his wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric in the lead roles. I naturally assumed it was a dramatisation of the book itself. In fact there are only two actors in the entire play so when I first read about it and then later saw the stills from the movie I was admittedly cool about it.
After all, how could the whole of Venus in Furs be dramatised on stage with only two actors?
Of course I did not make the distinction.
But people kept asking me what I thought of the film (because of my translation and illustrations I was now thought of as some authority, maybe) so in the end I relented, thinking I had to base an opinion and so I sat grimly through the first few minutes. Rather like the director on stage Thomas Novachek (not the director of the play itself, by the way) who gradually warms to the personality of actress Vanda Jordan, I warmed to the script as I realised that the play’s author David Ives really understood the book itself and I started to enjoy the way the two characters reacted to each other and was thoroughly won over as the film ended.
So when the play finally came to Theatre Royal Haymarket in London I was enthusiastic to see it. In company with Mistress Tess and her admirer, we saw Natalie Dormer as Vanda and David Oakes as Thomas in a production directed by Patrick Marber. I was pleased at last to hear it in English instead of subtitled from the French film and it quite lived up to my expectations. Lots of great comic and insightful moments that really reflected the whole dynamic between Severin and Wanda in the original book.