A PACK OF WOOLFS PROWL ROUND THE GENDER-BEND
One bespectacled, anxious-looking Virginia Woolf in a wise brown skirt and dreary cardigan isn’t sufficient, so Michael Grandage’s manufacturing generously opens with a complete pack of Woolfs – 9 of them – in Neil Bartlett’s new model of the writer’s traditional whimsical-feminist fantasy. They/She are there to inform, and help with, the story of a younger court docket favorite of Elizabeth I who miraculously lives on as an harmless everyperson, barely rising older whereas discovering love, loss and journey and turning into a girl someday between the Georgian and Victorian eras. And, crucially, significantly resenting being feminine within the latter.
Which is truthful sufficient, since that was when Woolf was born, and out of which she and her heroines and her lover Vita Sackville West needed to battle till her suicide in 1944.
The group of Woolfs is efficient, expressing the human have to be lots of completely different folks, not trapped in a single function. There’s a pleasant irony in that, since our age’s gender-neurosis and clenched identification politics usually really feel extra like a lure than the liberty Orlando calls for to “honour happiness, and obey want in no matter kind it comes”. The guide is perennially attention-grabbing, and certainly a latest far lower-budget model on the Jermyn (https://theatrecat.com/2022/05/15/orlando-jermyn-st-theatre-wc2/) despatched me to it, charmed by that manufacturing’s explicit comedian edge and unselfconscious jollity.
However Neil Bartlett’s model in some way felt a bit disappointing: insubstatial although witty and mischievous, generally cheekily mashing up some terrible cod-Shakespeare (I just like the ‘lustful porpentine’) and pinching allusions from each Some Like It Scorching and Cabaret. The staging is beautiful: mist within the 1603 Frost Truthful in London, fixed motion and Peter McKintosh’s completely superb costumes – not simply on the divine Orlando however whipped on and off because the Woolfs change into all the opposite characters he/she meets. There are some good jokes, too, and Deborah Findlay as “Mrs Grimsditch” the dresser-minder who escorts Orlando by means of the centuries is a deal with each time. It ought in idea to be a bang-on deal with for the genderfluid era, however the one I took with me was a bit unimpressed: felt it old style within the distinction. He additionally noticed that if it had been on the |Edinburgh Fringe it could have fitted. Whereas right here, up West…not a lot.
We additionally agreed in wishing `Neil Bartlett had courageously added a coda wherein Orlando powers by means of ladies’s liberation and arrives within the current day to combine it with our personal preconceptions. However as soon as the writer dies within the 1940’s, it stops, there’s solely a little bit of be-happy philosophy and a stroll into the sunshine. Additionally, possibly a few of the encounters with nice poets within the authentic had been allowed in, it could really feel a richer stew.
By no means thoughts. One factor’s for positive: Emma Corrin goes to get lovelorn proposals from a lot of the alleged 74 genders. They don’t come any cuter, extra androgyne gamin/gamine, from the primary cheeky flash of ‘his’ sort out below an Elizabethan shift to the frills of “her” 18c underdrawers and the Nineteen Forties tennis-dress. There may be gallant likeability there too, and should you had been paying certainly one of MGC’a promised 10,000 tickets at £10, you’d be nicely glad. Recreationally if not, maybe, intellectually. Nonetheless , to be truthful there are additionally lots of atypical tickets below £60 as nicely, which for an 11-cast manufacturing within the West Finish is spectacular today. So don’t be postpone. Fall in love with Corrin, possibly. However don’t count on a thunderclap.
Field workplace. www.nimaxtheatres.com. to 24 feb