Posts Tagged ‘venus in fur

04
Aug
15

Grounded

 

Grounded

Queensland Theatre Company

The Greenhouse Diane Cilento Studio

July 29 – August 22 2015

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Grounded_libbymunro

 

If you want to see this year’s best performance and be part of the crowd who’ll say, “I saw her first” when she accepts an Academy Award one day, don’t miss Libby Munro in Grounded.

 

It’s an intense slow-burn one-woman drama and Munro is thrilling in it.

 

libbymunrohero

2013 WINNER of the Matilda Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

 

You might have missed her in Venus In Fur – directed by Andrea Moor in 2013 – and wondered why ever since, since it’s one of the productions we haven’t stopped talking about.

 

Wesley Enoch explains simply, “A diva is a celebrated woman of outstanding talent…and Libby Munro is such a woman.”

 

George Brant’s brilliant insight into drone warfare from the female fighter pilot’s perspective is the best kind of contemporary poetry, without much of the punctuation you’d expect to see on a page, allowing the actor to find the natural cadence of the piece. On many levels it’s a quietly political piece but Grounded will endure and enjoy greater global success because it keeps the human story, like the heartbeat of Tony Brumpton’s soundscape for this superb production, at its core.

 

We walk into the Diane Cilento Studio – used for the first time in performance mode for Grounded – and hear the low hum of either the air con or the soundscape (it’s impossible to tell) and then see the indelible image of a woman in fetal position at the top of a small raked stage, a flight suit set below her. The suit, just for these opening moments, enjoys the most light. When she puts it on she doesn’t want to take it off, and says so. It’s part of her, her identity. It’s how she knows who she is. Later, she admits to having had sex in it. But only once.

 

The body becomes electric, the face becomes animated, almost like a child’s as she tells us with stars in her eyes, and Maverick arrogance and religious reverence, about the thrill of soaring through “the blue” in her Tiger, and laughing and drinking beer with the other Top Guns, her boys, at the end of each shift.

 

Then suddenly there’s the shock, surprise and delight that comes with love and the pink stripe of pregnancy, and the birth of a beautiful baby girl…who needs “attention”. We feel her confusion and commitment to both the family and the air force as she tries to adjust to the military’s version of “work-life balance”. We watch, dismayed, as she takes her place behind a screen every day for 12 hours at a time to become one of the Chair Force, wirelessly controlling a death-dealing reaper drone from a dark trailer in the Nevada desert. You can’t make out their faces but from their movement you can identify, without any doubt, The Guilty. Suddenly, we miss the blue too.

 

Through vivid description, though without morbid graphic detail (the economy of words and the measured pace saving us from the darkest corner of our imaginations), we see body parts flying through the air and what remains of the bodies merging with the grey sand on the screen as The Pilot “lingers”, safe from death, in her $11 million “eye in the sky”. The threat of death has been removed.

 

Can you imagine? The vivid pictures Munro paints with Brant’s prose will sweep you up and along on the journey so be ready; it’s one hell of a ride. You might feel your stomach turn – it’s the G-Force effect – or feel the need to shake it off and get your land legs back after such a tumultuous storytelling event.

 

Testament to the lasting impression this production leaves, on opening night there were many in the audience who stayed sitting in their seats after the curtain call, just sitting…perhaps hoping to be offered something stronger than champagne.

 

In what must constitute the acting masterclass of the year, Munro expertly shows us every tiny detail of her world, just as a “world builder” novelist does. We get a sense of the vastness, the magic of “the blue”, the comedy and tragedy of trying to schedule TV time, sex, sleep, and daycare drop-off “special time” in between 12-hour shifts surrounded by military males (staring at “military age” male targets). And all of this without the aid of over-zealous production elements, which are wisely kept simple, completely unfettered, thanks to an unassuming and super talented creative team, who have allowed the actor to take centre stage. No fancy projections here, just the blue-turning-grey of a quietly commanding abstract design to literally frame the actor…and the perfectly timed sound of a beating heart. (Designer Georgina Greenhill. Lighting Designer Ben Hughes. Sound Designer Tony Brumpton). Not that we can take our eyes off Munro for long to really study anything else in the room…

 

grounded

 

A flawless brunette beauty, tall, slender and strong, even in the most sensitive, vulnerable moments, Munro has the striking looks and arresting presence of a supporting actress envied by leading ladies who fail to cast a similar spell over captivated audiences and can’t for the life of them understand why. The rich, nuanced vocal work is superb and the pace, as we leap across the hours, days, years, is as real-time as it gets. The performance is beautifully shaped and layered by Director, Andrea Moor. The repetition is almost too much at one point, but it serves to help us appreciate the strange routine of virtual warfare, which allows a fighter pilot to get the job done and make it home in time for dinner.

 

When you see Munro’s tour-de-force performance in the intimate space of the Diane Cilento Studio you’ll understand I’m not exaggerating. You’ll come under her spell and know too that she’s something special. She must be the spunkiest, sexiest, most compelling actress on an Australian stage right now. Hers is a sublime performance of a hard-hitting, game-changing text that could mean we won’t see Munro on a local stage for a little while after this season closes on August 22. Better be quick to book. Grounded is not to be missed.

 

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29
Jun
13

Venus In Fur

Venus In Fur

Queensland Theatre Co

QPAC Cremorne

27 June – 07 July 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Vanda: You dare to resist me?

 

Thomas: Yes, I dare.

 

Vanda: You little piece of nothing! You dust! You dare to resist a goddess?

 

 

“BRAVERY, WILL, AND COMMON SENSE ARE ALL AN ACTOR NEEDS.”

                                                                                                                 David Mamet

 

 

Libby Munro Vens In Fur

Libby Munro has all this and more. Much, much more. She’s the complete package, a goddess, which is so exciting; especially at this stage of QTC’s 2013 season, in this highly anticipated Australian premiere of David IvesVenus In Fur. Quite simply, actors of Munro’s calibre don’t come around often…and it was time. Just saying…no, but really! Wow! What a find! (Can we keep her?)! As Vanda, Munro completely spoils us; she’s the ultimate seductress, with strong principles and a Pilates-toned Honey Birdette clad bod to make even this gym bunny think about upping the weekly classes. If only I had the time to keep up with that kinda’ tone! If only I had the energy! That is commitment to the role.

 

Munro is the unequivocal star of this two-hander, and although Todd MacDonald does everything within his power to balance the power on stage it’s as if he can never do quite enough to get our attention for very long, David Ives has written Thomas this way and MacDonald does all he needs to as the adaptor and director of the play inspired by the erotic 19th century novella by Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch. When Vanda bursts in late for her audition, she brings with her a new perspective on the play, and the power struggle – and incredibly cleverly the play within the play – begins. The transformation takes place magically, in a single breath at the top of the stairs in a perfectly functional and evocative set designed by Simone Romaniuk (beautifully evocative lighting, including lightning, by David Walters and soundscape, complete with actors’ beats and thunderstorm by Guy Webster). When you see it you’ll see it. The transformation. And you’ll realise in that instant that this is the most perfect piece of casting we’re likely to see on a Brisbane stage this year.

 

Venus In Fur

Director, Andrea Moor, who brought William H. Macy and David Mamet’s Practical Aesthetics actor training to Australia in 1988, has taken such a bold, intelligent approach that we can’t fail to get every message here, however; ultimately the corny conclusion lets us down on one level, reducing the entire brilliantly layered gender argument to a comic book style statement (It’s Barbarella Barbie proclaiming, Spice Girls style, “Girls rule!” I was going to pop in an image here, actually, but Google gave me some of the most disturbing Barbie images ever, and Munro presents a much better picture in the end, regardless of my opinion on the statement she makes!). This image appears to please the majority but I was left wanting more, which, like all good erotica, may well have been the intention. I felt her win would have been even more momentous if these two had had their night of passion. AND THEN SHE LEAVES HIM. But no, not even a pash at the post! You can only imagine my disappointment! The gun was on stage without being fired! I’d love to know what you think about the final moments of the play.

 

David Ives has threaded throughout the text, the most enticing political tidbits; nothing new, timeless in fact, which is why the sentiments seem to ring so true. It has always been thus! But what if Vanda were to return the following day to continue working on the production? I can’t help but wonder. What fantastic theatre it is, making us laugh and gasp and talk for days afterwards about so many different aspects of the production (including, to my surprise, the notion of offering a program to every patron, included in their ticket price, which astonished my sister from Melbourne, where coffee is cheap and programs are not!).

 

What a beautifully captured production, to make me want to read the original novella, the play, AND the director’s notes in the margins of her copy of the script. Each time I see something of Andrea Moor’s head and heart on stage I do wonder why we’re not seeing more from her. More Moor, please. It’s rich, intelligent, actors’ acting that appeals just as much to the masses, who are getting so used to seeing good live theatre in Brisbane we can’t expect anyone to accept anything less.

 

Venus in Fur is a coup for Brisbane and for our state theatre company. Let’s hope our friends in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide (at the very least) demand to see it too!

 

19
Jun
13

Venus in Fur: Afternoon Delight!

Afternoon Delight with the cast of Venus In Fur

Meredith McLean

Venus_in_Fur_13_event

I can’t wait to see this one. Venus in Fur has been lurking on the posters and walls around the city for a while now and the preview is finally here! This Saturday, Venus in Fur will have its first run with an audience. Have you booked yet?

 

I went to the afternoon tea with the company – conversations and drinks. It was good to mingle and see them just chill out before the five week run of this production starting this weekend.

 

The venue couldn’t have been better. Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall hidden on Caxton Street was superb. Very New Orleans-ish, dim lit with champagne ready. On one of the moose heads mounted on the ceiling I even spotted a bra hanging off the antlers, so no doubt fun times have been had here in the past.

 

Libby Munro, the leading lady in this erotic duologue for a show, was beaming the whole time. No doubt running on the adrenalin knowing the show is so soon. She announced that they were doing the tech bump-in tonight and that’s how you know it’s really happening. She even confessed she was counting down the five weeks until she could have a strong drink, because you really need your wits about you when you are the energy of the show.

 

The lovely director Andrea Moor got into a discussion more on the lines of Brisbane it self rather than the show when I spoke to her. We all agreed no one realizes how culturally geared Brisbane truly is. The beauty of these smaller theatres is that they can be daring and risqué unlike others. QPAC, though certainly not a small theatre, often chooses these smaller casted plays over others Moor said, because Brisbane can facilatate them faster and better than a huge 12-man or more production.

 

But regardless of everyone’s opinions on brisbane’s theatre scene there was a collective buzz about Venus in Fur. With drinks and posters going around, the words on everyone’s lips was “I want to see it.”

 

Venus in Fur will be running at QPAC from 22nd of June to 27th of July before it makes the move for the tour. Don’t hesitate to see this one. Just because I can’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t – I don’t doubt there are good things to come.

 

The end of a long day of casting, and playwright-director Thomas (Todd Macdonald) can’t find the right woman. He needs beautiful-sexy-articulate, young, with a “particle of brain”. He needs someone to play a mistress, but has endured a parade of 35 misfires.

 

Thomas is adapting Venus In Furs, the infamously kinky 1870 novel by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch –the etymological father of masochism. It calls for a purring, confident dominatrix.

 

He gets more than he expected when the raging storm blows in Vanda (Libby Munro) – late, frazzled, with the very litany of the flaws he just decried. She talks of Venus in Furs as one might talk of Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

As the director takes a chance and allows her to read anyway, the balance of power tilts between actress and director, mistress and slave. Thomas and Vanda become two people handcuffed at the heart in David Ives’ deliciously sassy, sexy, character-driven power-play.

 

Take direction: Submit, and spend an evening at the mercy of Venus in Fur.

 




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