Orlando ★★★★★ Jermyn Street Theatre | Apr 28 - May 28, 2022


Admirers of Virginia Woolf will adore this adaptation of her whimsical Orlando. Woolf's romp through 500 years of history with her writer protagonist changing from male to female along the way looks at the historical construction of gender while cunningly considering its very definition. The work is also a rather playful love note to Vita Sackville-West and has a lightness of tone which is not easy to capture. However, Sarah Ruhl's reworking manages to hit just the right note. The mischievous humour and subtle sting of Woolf's original are beautifully reimagined. Similarly, director, Stella Powell-Jones, succeeds in walking the difficult line of creating empathy for characters who are by definition fanciful inventions while sustaining interest in a story that is gossamer thin. The whole cast are strong and get into the spirit of the piece with performances that have elements of mime and märchen. Taylor McClaine is an effervescent Orlando who brings a delightfully Peter Pan-like quality to their part, and Skye Hallam does a fine turn as Sasha. The rest of the cast (Tigger Blaize, Rosalind Lailey and Stanton Wright) display a wonderful versatility, acting both as a chorus and in a variety of smaller roles. We particularly liked Blaize's over-the-top Elizabeth I. They all bring a wonderful sense of fun to Woolf's fable which might serve to lighten and illuminate the sometimes cruel and divisive contemporary debate around the issue of gender. Let's hope Orlando in this brilliant production helps to create an acceptance and celebration of a "nature, who delights in muddle and mystery" and "who has played so many queer tricks upon us, making us so unequally of clay and diamonds, of rainbow and granite...."

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Steve Gregson.

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