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Venus And Adonis - Shakespeare In Lust

Author: Darryn King
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is this a stiletto I see before me- Performers Susan Prior and Melissa Madden Gray (better known as Meow Meow) will be seducing audiences this month in Venus and Adonis, a Bell Shakespeare / Malthouse Melbourne production presented by the Sydney Theatre Company. 3D’s Darryn King spoke to director Marion Potts about blending Shakespeare and cabaret.

Even a very positive review of the show suggested that the poem Venus and Adonis could be the worst thing that Shakespeare wrote. What do you think of it-
Opinions vary so wildly about Shakespeare’s work – this was in fact a huge hit and many considered it the best thing he ever wrote… Apparently he himself rated it above his plays. I think the poem is wonderful.

Can you tell us a little about the story of Venus and Adonis-

Venus meets Adonis and decides she has to have him. But when she tries to seduce him, to her utter amazement (these things never happen to Goddesses), he rejects her. She won’t take no for an answer so she re-doubles her efforts, but he’s not remotely interested. So she tries again and again, she tries every trick in the book – including some incredible verbal gymnastics. But he just wants to go hunting with his mates. She is brought to earth with the crash of human failure.

So what’s different about this production-

In our production we cast the audience as Adonis and re-locate the forest to the contemporary sexual site of a hotel room. We are never quite sure whether these are in fact a hydra-headed Venus, or just two women waiting for Adonis to come through…

So is it about love- Lust- Grief- Female sexuality-
All of the above!

The role of Venus has been divided between Melissa Madden Gray and Susan Prior – do the two of them encapsulate different aspects of the Venus character-

The beauty of playing the role this way is that they can explore a number of different relationships to each other, depending on what’s required: they can support each other, out-do each other, egg each other on, provide extra physical help – they have double the ammunition and twice the power to seduce…

More generally, how enjoyable is it for you as a director to break down the fourth wall in this production, and have the performers directly address the audience-
I often break the fourth wall, so it’s not new… Shakespeare brought us the soliloquy to make use of the relationship between audience and performer and it’s very rewarding. Having said that, I don’t think I’ve ever exploited it in quite this way….

WHAT: Venus and Adonis
WHERE: Wharf2, Sydney Theatre
WHEN: Wednesday 11 February – Saturday 28