You’ll be forgiven for not recognising Venus and Adonis as a work of Shakespeare, but it is in fact his first published poem and was incredibly successful at the time. Although it has fallen in to near obscurity, it is a powerful piece, which has been reimagined by Christopher Hunter at C Venues for this Edinburgh Fringe.
Venus, an older woman is obsessed with the handsome young Adonis, he isn’t interested and would rather just go hunting, not taking no for an answer her sexual assault on him has tragic consequences. The language and descriptive power is just fantastic, the words swirling into your head too fast to process before the next delicious metaphor appears.
Performer and director Christopher Hunter, fills the intimate space with high pulsating energy. Wearing a modern, albeit crumpled, suit he brings this, centuries old, text vividly to life with tremendous passion. Constantly moving with seemingly complete liberation, Hunter takes on both roles with ease.
The subject matter may not be easy to stomach, it was written at a time when the Plague gripped London and a young William Shakespeare clearly drew inspiration from the deep depths of despair he would have witnessed around him. The forbidden erotica within the piece allows Hunter to delve deep in to the psychology of the characters and that makes for a very absorbing performance.
What becomes apparent is that this poem, written in the 1500’s, could have been penned today. The narrative sounds about as 21st century as you can get and it beguiles belief that this could be anything but a modern day piece of theatre.
Venus and Adonis is a complex story which can be enjoyed by anyone, Shakespeare fan or not. Not only has it been wonderfully adapted for the stage, it is performed in a way that will grip audiences from the very outset.