Venus in Fur at 107 Projects

'Venus in Fur' by David Ives is a complex exploration of sex and power. A battle of minds and motives, 'Venus in Fur' shifts the boundaries between the real and the imagined. This witty and ensnaring exploration of the changing power balance between men and women; between sex and intellect, will be coming to the Performance Space at 107 from the 10th - 13th of April, 2019. 

Carly spoke with Director Emma Burns about the complexity of this work and its relevance in a world of #metoo. Read the full interview below:

Emma Burns

Venus in Fur is a show that has been widely produced around the world. When were you first introduced to this piece and what attracted you to the show initially? Why do you think it is a story relevant to 2019 audiences?


I was first introduced to Venus about a year ago in a search for a new theatrical obsession. I was drawn in by the mythical crossover with Broadway. Venus in a modern, and American, context was intriguing. I’m fairly certain I screamed when I finished reading it.

Venus is very relevant in 2019, we’ve just ridden the first #MeToo wave (there will be more) and are entering a moment in time when the voices of victims are being magnified not suppressed. Where auctoritas is no longer a deterrent to speaking up. For me Venus is about tearing down the structures of (often) Masculine power which tend to manifest in sexual dominance and humiliation. Sex and power are linked so insidiously in its 21st Century iteration; and that is something very relevant.  


The show is described as being a ‘complex exploration of sex and power.’ The show also deals with the changing power balance between men and women and uses the theatre industry as an example. How do you feel that this show can contribute to the wider discussion that is happening at the moment about opportunities to abuse power and take advantage of those who hold less status, or power?


Venus In Fur is at its core about the abuse and manipulation of power and the powerless. I think that in the context of 2019, after #MeToo, Venus now serves as more than just an addition to the discussion surrounding the issue - but as a tool that can be used to express in a digestible way just how easily these abuses can occur and how quickly people can be manipulated.

Venus was mildly prophetic- though the whole industry (and perhaps the world) seemed unsurprised by the Allegations against Weinstein and others- in 2013 it heralded the abuses which occur in so many levels of the industry. In this instance it is men and women, but I believe that the main role gender plays in power- is that power is predominantly held by men. Women are equally as able to abuse power as men; it’s just that fewer women hold those positions. Power is a corruptive force. In 2019 it is an allegorical tool which can be utilised in the far broader discussion of power abuse in every industry. Theatre is made to teach a lesson, express a view, change an opinion. It is not made for the sake of theatre itself; it is made to impact the audience. I believe that theatre serves as a record of social morality - Venus is a very important subheading for our era.


The production promises to delicately and maturely tackle these important themes of gender balance changes and power. How did you and your cast initially approach the text and what has your rehearsal process been like?


We have had a lot of discussions about expectations, limits and ideas- from the get go I have geared us towards tackling Venus together. I had ideas about the show, but so did my actors and every member of the prod team. All these perspectives have been integral to developing our interpretation of Venus. I don’t believe there is one ‘initial approach’ to reading this text because every week we develop new theories and caveats and delve deeper and deeper. There are so many meanings that every rehearsal feels like new ground. Caitlin Williams and Zach Selmes are both incredibly talented and fluid actors; their adaptability makes for truly invigorating rehearsals. I have encouraged an environment in rehearsals where we can all engage in the direction of the show and speak up about discomfort or disagreement.


Venus in Fur is a show that has been performed many times before. What is something fresh that you believe this production brings to the original? Do you feel that the times have influenced the show at all and perhaps even added layers of meaning to the text that weren’t initially written? Or do you feel that honoring the original is the best approach?  


“Vanda is 24, for God’s sake”- from what I’ve seen of other productions, older actors are used by older directors. I am a young woman, with a younger cast. When I first read Venus I felt as if it were written for me, for the other actresses I knew; a response to the many stories of dismissal and objectification on the basis of age and inexperience (often mistaken for immaturity) that I had heard. It was empowering. The context of our younger team is something that by default adds a refreshed perspective on the show. We are the demographic, it happens to performers of all ages, but it happens most often to those just entering the industry who are so vulnerable and so inconsequential that those in power feel they can get away with it. I absolutely believe that Venus has been impacted by the context of #MeToo, as every text is impacted by the context in which it is performed, that is how texts retain universality. If a text can’t adapt it is irrelevant. To honour a text is to re-perform and re-contextualise; to honour it is to continue to imbue it with a new voice.


What do you feel is the most important message that audiences will hopefully walk away from this show with?


I want people to walk away with a greater respect for power; that is a respect for how dangerous and harmful it can be. How easily it can be corrupted. How easily it can manipulate. How easily it can destroy. I want the audience to leave with a greater respect for young adults from whom respect and submission is implicitly expected of in every industry, every institution and every interaction with power. I want respect for the expectation that young adults need to circumvent their identity and desires for obedience.




Favourite production you have ever seen?

Romeo and Juliet, STC 2013 Kip Williams- I will carry the spectacle of Mercutio swinging from a chandelier to Alt-J’s Fitzpleasure with me to my grave.


You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?



Dream show to direct?

Venus in Fur


Plays or musicals?



A hobby you have beyond the theatre?

Does eating count?


What’s next for you after this show?

That would be telling

Venus in Fur opens at 107 Projects on April 10 2019. You can get your tickets here.

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