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Venus In Fur - Photo by Daniel Grant
Venus In Fur – Photo by Daniel Grant

Black Swan State Theatre Company gets into the racy and risqué spirit of Fringe World with its first production of the 2015 season, Venus In Fur by David Ives. The brazen publicity image for the show, which features actress Felicity McKay wearing just a black bra and actor Adam Booth’s hand cupping one of her breasts while his other hand encircles her neck, has turned a few heads and ruffled a few feathers. But actor Adam Booth thinks we should look further into the image before looking away.

“There’s a layering of meaning in that image which some people will understand and appreciate, and others won’t. It reflects the shifting power dynamic. Both hands are placed in particular positions that cause concern for people for different reasons. But an understanding of the story will help to inform the layers of meaning in that image,” Booth explains.

“My grandma saw the image in the newspaper and showed my dad at morning tea on a Sunday. My dad said, ‘It’s a bit risqué’ or something to that effect, and my grandma looked at him and said ‘It’s acting, John’. She gets it, she’s 90, she’s totally on board.”

Venus In Fur is a contemporary two-hander which contains a play-within-a-play based on the novella Venus In Furs by the original masochist, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. In broad terms, it delves into the power balance between men and women. Booth’s character confronts himself via this power struggle, which he admits is the major challenge in this piece.

“It really taps into his vulnerability and the questions he doesn’t even necessarily know he’s asking himself. He’s taken to a place where he’s forced to question who he is and what he’s after. Going there is difficult. That’s the great challenge of this piece and the challenge that we’re really enjoying as a team.”

The play debuted in 2010 off Broadway, moved to Broadway in 2011 and has also been adapted into a French-language film directed by Roman Polanski. Booth made the decision to watch the Polanski film as part of his research, although he says director Lawrie Cullen-Tait has avoided seeing it so as not to impede her creative process. “I think if there’s a film that’s based on the play you’re working on, it’s worth having a look at because you never know what you’ll find out, and you’ll never know what you’ll learn.”

Another part of his character research involved looking into all the literary references contained within the script. “I feel as an actor to have the right to make those references, you need to own them and understand them and know where they’re coming from, so there was a mountain of reading to do.” But he assures us audiences won’t get bogged down in literary allusions, and says “It’s a really frenetic, fast-paced, hilarious, genuinely funny play.”

Booth says, “It gets you questioning power dynamics in relationships that you don’t even know you’re enacting. This play has a really awesome climactic trajectory, and I think it’s one of those plays that will leave big questions hanging in the air, and people will walk away from it with a bit of a buzz and have a healthy debate over a drink afterwards.”


Venus In Fur runs at the State Theatre Centre from Thursday, January 15, until Sunday, February 8. For tickets and session times, go to



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