The success of an actor lies in being unrecognisable.
To become another — to become a shadow of oneself during a performance.
But what price does this metamorphosis extract? And what does it reveal to a person about themselves and about the world?
Venus in Fur, a two handler by David Ives that stages a play within a play, explains the all-encompassing blanket worn by actors in the course of their job.
The show, held at the Junction on September 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15, may be a censored version of the 2010 Tony-nominated original, but it nonetheless holds a mirror to an industry where the power hungry and the power mad grapple for dominion.
In it, ageing playwright Thomas Novacheck (Osman Aboubakr), who is forlorn after a day of disappointing casting calls, comes across determined actress Vanda Jordan (Farzana Palathingal) who looks electric and acts even better.
The audition turns into a game of tag, where roles are turned upside down and suddenly from the need-to-please position of someone angling for a job, Jordan is transformed into the one holding all the cards.
It’s a look at industry through a magnifying glass.
“The audience who come to watch the show can get a little insight into the show business by peeping into the life of an actress who goes to an audition in an empty theatre after a long stressful day,” explains director Juliska Szik, whose previous credits include Medea, a tale of love and vengeance.
“You will be able to witness the unfolding of a very passionate love story full of surprises while the characters’ personalities merge with the roles they are reading (which sometimes happens in real life with performing artists),” she adds.
The director is fond of stories with strong woman leads; she says she feels compelled to tell the tales she can relate to.
“Medea was betrayed by the man she loved the most and had to stand up for herself. The story of Venus in Fur is more complex. This is more of a theoretical debate about universal and current questions between man and woman, spiced up with love and passion, she says.
Considering the #MeToo tsunami that’s hit the world in the year gone by, the themes of Venus take on a new significance.
The story gets under your skin, says Szik.
“Every one of us has an opinion about ‘race, class and gender’ issues, and very personal experiences about what sort of dynamics are occurring in passionate relationships. We have to fuel this play with our very own memories to make it as real as possible, and this process could be excruciating,” she says.
Not male bashing
That said, Venus is not a male-bashing estrogen fest.
“There is no villain in this piece. In this story, I would like to show that both parties have their truths which are equally right,” explains Szik.
For the actors of this version of Venus, it’s been an interesting learning curve.
Aboubakr, whose acting credits include Almost Maine, The Prisoner of 2nd Avenue, Red, The Mousetrap and The Crucible, says he can identify with his character since they navigate the same waters.
For budding actor Palathingal, “The tricky bit was having to justify the conflicting opinions of both my characters. There are a lot of layers to both of them that are worlds apart from mine that I’ve learnt to recognise gradually.
And the challenging part was to try and tuck those layers into my thoughts and actions while preparing for the play.”
That’s the job: metamorphosis.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to Venus in Fur, which runs at The Junction, AlSerkal Avenue, at 7.30pm on September 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 are Dh100.