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Orlando (Susan Elkin reviews)

Show: Orlando

Society: West End & Fringe

Venue: Jermyn Street Theatre. 16b Jermyn Street, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6ST



4 stars

Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando (1928) was written as a quasi homage to Vita Sackville West (author, gardener, aristocrat etc)  with whom she was in a relationship. Both women had open marriages to men. Nearly a century later Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation is fresh, lively, funny  – and, of course, very topical. We meet Orlando (Taylor McClaine) several times in different personae over five centuries variously presenting as a young man or a young woman. It’s a piece about time, transformation, sexual ambiguity and “ a great variety of selves.”

Ruhl’s script shifts continually from first person to third so that we never lose the stylistic sense of a story being told by an outsider. And bringing that off requires a great deal of speaking in synch, rapid symbolic costume change and movement round Jermyn Street’s rather awkward playing space. The cast manage it in spades. The faintly jokey physicality is fun and the whole piece dances along at speed so that it never goes off the boil.

Recent graduate from Lir Academy, Dublin and richly red-headed, Taylor McClaine gives us a well nuanced Orlando with plenty of youthful sassiness spliced with wide-eyed wonder and witty grins. Rosalind Lailey, Stanton Wright and Tigger Blaize form a chorus from which all the other roles emerge. All three provide very accomplished voice work and are good at bouncing off each other. The knowing looks between Lailey and Wright when they’re servants is a good moment and Blaize (very good)  has fun as a sex-changing suitor among many other roles. Skye Hallam’s smaller role as Sasha, a Russian princess idolised by Orlando in each incarnation is less successful.

Roly Botha’s sound design and music adds a lot to this lively, energetic production too. We get appropriate music for each era that Orlando lands in.  It underlines “the spirit of the age” which almost becomes a character in its own right  in this sparkling production.

First published by Sardines:

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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