Director brings racy play to stage

SPARKS FLY: Daniel Watterson as Thomas and Jessie Lawrence as Vanda in The Court Theatre's new production of Venus In Fur.

Calling the shots on an edgy new show delving into themes of sexual dominance and submissiveness has been described as a “new world to dive into” by director Lara Macgregor.

She is in charge of The Court Theatre’s Venus In Fur, a racy play raising questions about what is real and what is not, who is in control and who dominates.

Sound familiar?

While it is difficult not to draw comparisons to erotic romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey, Macgregor characterises the show as intellectual rather than having a “down and dirty” approach.

“There is a lot of comedy, a lot of mystery and there is a lot of psychological game-playing, which really pushes the audience,” she said.

Director Lara Macgregor

Macgregor, who is based in Hoon Hay, said the show looks deeply into the complexities of communication between a male and female.

A play within a play, the show begins with New York theatre playwright Thomas auditioning women to play the principal role in his adaption of the erotic 1870 novel Venus in Furs.

The novel by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch happens to have inspired the term ‘masochism’ in real life.

During the auditions, a mysterious character, Vanda, appears in the story and convinces Thomas to read with her. When they both become caught up in their characters, fantasy and reality is blurred.

Macgregor said audiences here often do not see a lot of plays which are sexual in nature and it was a change to be dealing with sexuality. “In the 1960s, you used to go to theatre where there was a lot of naked people and that was just a reflection on society at that time. We are just not really in that trend of theatre really,” she said.

A freelance director involved with The Court Theatre since 2008, Macgregor, who is originally from Wellington, has been based in the city for more than six months.

It has been an exciting year for Macgregor, who said she directed one of her most challenging shows The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Court Theatre earlier this year.

She said like Venus In Fur, it covered complex subject matters such as domestic violence, divorce and people who don’t care about others in difficult conditions. “You are dealing with nature and the human condition every day . . . you are a psychologist,” she said.

But Macgregor said in spite of often dealing with difficult subject matter, she loves telling stories for a job.

•Venus In Fur runs at The Court Theatre from October 21 to November 11. To book tickets, go to


MISCHIEVOUS: Daniel Watterson as Thomas and Jessie Lawrence as Vanda in The Court Theatre’s new production of Venus In Fur.