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Review –Venus Rising  – Liverpool Theatre Festival at St Luke’s Bombed Out Church

DIRECTED with great precision by Julia Kettle, this production of Ian Salmon’s intense one-act play Venus Rising restores the work to its original version for a single performer. When staged in 2018 (and reviewed for Good News Liverpool) several of the people that the lead player refers to in the text were fleshed out by other actors. Here, pared back to a monologue form, these characters become the stuff of our imagination, and this heightens the imagery and brings Salmon’s brilliant text into sharper focus.

James is an author, whose canon of trashy erotic fiction novels have earned him a substantial fortune, but it’s not what he had ever intended to write. Baring his soul to the audience, he talks us through his bookshelf in an effort to prove that his mind is on higher things. He always wanted to write ‘The Great American Novel’ but it wasn’t putting food on the table. When he accepted a bet from his mate that he could emulate the likes of E. L. James he soon discovered a talent that he never thought he had, and the appetite of his readership soon made him a more than comfortable living.

But there is a cost that James is struggling to weigh against the success. His publisher decided from the outset that he needed to write under a female pseudonym in order to sell the books. Now an actor called Teri now trots the globe living the high life at book signings and personal appearances, whilst he sits at home in Formby churning out more meaningless words, slowly drowning his sorrows and himself in wine.

Nick Sheedy gives a powerhouse performance, never allowing the tension to lapse for a moment throughout the play’s 75 minute span. He makes James into a likeable character despite the anger, frustration and self-loathing that permeate every sentence and every gesture. Both Salmon’s writing and Sheedy’s delivery sweep us along in the tsunami of despair that engulfs him.

This production is a fine example of less being more, with the reduction of the text back to a single, unassisted narrative making everything yet more vivid. Here’s hoping that Sheedy’s reading of the role gets to see further performances in the very near future.

Star rating – 5 stars

Review by Nigel Smith


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