Review: Venus in Fur starring Natalie Dormer and David Oakes

I was lucky enough to win lottery tickets via the TodayTix app to see Venus in Fur its opening week, starring two of my favorite film and television actors, Natalie Dormer and David Oakes. The show is currently at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, one of my favorite theatres in London, and is only running until December 9th.

It's an electrifying production of David Ives' play which did quite well on Broadway. In a gripping 90 minutes, with no interval, it manages to showcase both its actors to their full potential. It tells the story of a New York playwright/director, Thomas Novachek, who is searching for an actress to play the lead in his new play based on the German novel of the 1870s, Venus in Fur. That novel, by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, inspired the term masochism and tells the story of a tempestuous relationship between Severin and Wanda. When Vanda Jordan, an unschooled, vulgar actress arrives late to her audition, the show really takes off. The actors switch seamlessly between the roles of playwright and actress and the characters they are reading, Severin and Wanda.


The production is simply stunning despite its simplicity. With all the action taking place in one 90 minute stretch, it's amazing that the actors can summon the same energy throughout as neither leave the stage once they've entered it. The two summon British accents for the characters they are reading, while employing New York accents for Novachek and Vanda. Natalie Dormer's brash Brooklyn accent is quite impressive, while David Oakes's more subdued New York accent is unquestionable (as I assured him at stage door). 


Having seen David Oakes as Juan Borgia on The Borgias and as the devilishly handsome and promiscuous Prince Ernest on Victoria, I had high hopes for him which he didn't disappoint in the least. 

He manages to hold his own beside Dormer (no small feat), while never attempting to upstage her. He portrays the tortured playwright with seeming ease and lends him an air of charisma that keeps the audience enthralled. He also manages to bring quite a bit of humor into the role, without losing his intellectual air. 

I also have to say that he was incredibly kind at stage door, spending several minutes talking to each person and signing out their autographs to them personally. We had a nice chat about American accents and the irony in the fact that he has a line about the Borgias in the play. 


Natalie Dormer has been my favorite actress for years, with stunning performances on The Tudors, The Scandalous Lady W, The Riot Club, and Game of Thrones to name a few. (I have never recovered from her character's death on GoT and haven't watched the show since it happened.) 

But her performance as Vanda/Wanda is one of the best I've seen from her. It was incredible getting to watch her live, as she switched effortlessly between the sophisticated poised Wanda and the brash Brooklynite Vanda. This role manages to showcase many sides of Dormer's talent, including comedy which she is surprisingly adept at. Dormer's chemistry with Oakes, and her general charisma on stage, make it difficult to take your eyes off of her.  

I wasn't expecting either actor to stage door so I was pleasantly shocked when I heard that both of them do. Natalie was absolutely lovely, despite it raining which caused issues with pens. She was happy to sign programmes, take photos, and have a little chat with each person there. I was able to tell her that I've admired her work for years and she said that she's so happy to be back on the stage after five years. 


This play is one that I will be returning to at least once, if not twice. It's an intelligent piece that never lets the audience look away with two stunning leads who live up to their lengthy resumes, and then some. In truth, I was so on edge the entire performance, I felt exhausted at the end. (And thus, I can only imagine how Dormer and Oakes feel.) I highly recommend grabbing a ticket to this show if you can make it to London during its run; you won't be disappointed.

You can also check out my video review of the show, paired with my review of Queen Anne:

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