Spanning three centuries, it tells the story of Orlando, a boy born in the reign of Elizabeth I, who lives to 1928 and possibly beyond. During that time, he becomes her, when Harry met Harriet, so Woolf must be credited with writing one of her first transgender novels.
A bare stage with a handful of trappings (chairs, stepladders, and clothes/costume baskets) is brought to life by nine identically dressed Virginia Woolfs serving as co-narrators.
Emma Corrin (a non-binary artist) is the perfect Orlando, whether in male or female form, as they hurtle through the centuries, helped into the relevant and beautiful outfits by their equally long-lived dressmaker, Mrs. Grimsditch. (Deborah Findlay), who gives us the layman’s guide to where we are and what’s happening.
Director Michael Grandage keeps the action light and fast (I loved the timed tea shot), allowing the actors plenty of breathing room.
Bartlett plays fast, loose, and funny with other material (“Should I compare myself to a summer’s day?”) while delivering Woolf’s liberating message without the tedious preaching that plagued me, Joan.
It is absolutely wonderful and both a love letter to the theater and a light-hearted interrogation on sex, gender and love.
- Orlando at Garrick Theater until February 25, 2023 Tickets: 0330 333 4811
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