Venus as a Boy

Burns' masterful solo performance as Cupid is the crowning glory of an excellent production

Review by Michael Collins | 05 Aug 2007
Imagine that with one kiss you could give someone a glimpse of heaven, would that not be the best? Tam Dean Burns’ adaptation of Luke Sutherland’s Venus as a Boy presents the journey of Cupid - just one of his numerous monikers – from childhood in Orkney to his deathbed in Soho, riddled with the scars of his life of prostitution. Cupid’s story recounts his failed attempt to come to terms with memories of his first love in Orkney: blessed with the sort of carnal abilities that mere mortals dream of, he finds himself in the service of a Turkish pimp in London, trapped by a tragic acceptance of fate.

Although Venus as a Boy exposes fascism and bigotry throughout, from the Orkney Islands to the Soho pub bombings of the late ‘90’s, it also possesses a theological streak, posing the protagonist as a modern Christ. Cupid’s life is one of self-sacrifice, where he eventually gives himself up to humanity, his ‘gift’ giving all he touches, even the undeserved, a glimpse of heaven and redemption before he is swallowed in the post-modern Golgotha.

Equally vivid are the allusions to William Blake, whom Tam was writing about when he came in contact with the play, in the frequently surreal moments and relations between innocence and experience throughout the story.

Burns’s masterful solo performance slips as effortlessly between the multinational characters as he does into gold tights and high-heels. Alongside, Sutherland’s hypnotically haunting musical accompaniment of live guitars, fiddle and sampling catalyse the sense of transcendence that follows the script and Burns’s excellent interpretation.