THEATRE REVIEW: Orlando starring Emma Corrin at the Garrick Theatre

By Aline Mahrud

WORTH A LOOK?: ***1/2

WHEN?: Monday 28 November, runs to 25 February 2023 RUNTIME: 90 minutes (no interval)

Emma Corrin identifies as non-binary and, as such, their portrayal of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando would perhaps have the celebrated author cheering from the stalls were she still alive.

  • Read on for reasons including which stars joined us in the audience for this 2nd preview

But Woolf, who drowned herself in the River Ouse at Lewes in 1941 aged just 59, features heavily in director Michael Grandage’s (Frozen, Theatre Royal Drury Lane) vision with a chorus made up of different representations of the author who help propel the action here.

Woolf’s Orlando is thought to be inspired by the author’s infatuation for Vita Sackville-West and sees the character born as a male nobleman in England during the reign of Elizabeth I, undergoing a change of sex at about 30 years and living on for more than 300 years into modern times without ageing perceptibly.

It might sound like an episode of Doctor Who to our ears but it’s impossible to imagine quite how barrier-breaking this book was when it was written in 1928.

Neil Bartlett’s adaptation sees Corrin’s Orlando attended to by Deborah Findlay’s (Allelujah!, Bridge Theatre) Mrs Grimsditch and her comical commentary on our titular hero’s predicament, addressed often to ‘boys and girls and everyone’, is perhaps the most successful element of this disjointed work.

Ensemble player Richard Cant (The Trial, Young Vic) is reliably fantastic in the many plays we’ve seen him in in the West End and finds much to revel in here often dressed as a woman, most memorably perhaps as Woolf herself.

Corrin played Princess Diana in The Crown  and we said: ‘Emma Corrin as Diana has the advantage of being relatively unknown and her transformation from fresh-faced innocent to a woman trapped in a marriage with unenviable baggage is well-judged. The scene where she is rollerskating the corridors of Buckingham Palace listening to Duran Duran on her Walkman couldn’t be more emblematic of her loneliness.’

They made their West End debut in Anna X at the Harold Pinter last year. to much acclaim and here gives a memorable performance as both man and woman.

This playful production sees Corrin flashing what we thought was a false penis at 1 point and then a real-life breast about three-quarters of the way through this play without interval.

We enjoyed Grandage’s evocation of ice skating in a misty and frosty 17th century Greenwich as Orlando falls for the mysterious Russian Sasha.

We’ve seen the 1992 film of Orlando starring Tilda Swinton and feel much as we did about this production as we did about that – that it’s problems are to do with the admittedly groundbreaking yet seemingly largely uneventful story telling.

As we took our seats we thought we saw stars including Roisin Murphy and Julian Clary (not together) close to us in the 3rd row and we weren’t even much looking about us for the famous faces joining us at this 2nd preview.

We’ve recently reviewed Corrin in film My Policeman and we’re looking forward to their starring in Lady Chatterley’s Lover on Netflix this weekend and, although they’re good here, we predict they’ll be even more compelling in future West End roles.

  • Main picture via Facebook courtesy Nimax Theatres Tickets
  • Have you seen an Emma Corrin show before and what did you think of it? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow monstagigz on Twitter @NeilDurham, email neildurham3@gmail.com and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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