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Emma Corrin strips off to play Orlando in Virginia Woolf’s gender-bending flight of fancy

Orlando (Garrick Theatre, London)

Verdict: Girls and boys come out to play

Rating:

Ever since Emma Corrin catapulted to stardom, after peeping shyly through her fringe as a teenage Princess Diana in The Crown, then swiftly switching pronouns from she to they, the 26-year-old androgynous beauty has been the pin-up for non-binary identity.

Who better, then, to play the title role in Neil Bartlett’s funny but moving adaptation of Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s gender-bending, time-travelling flight of fancy?

It’s a frisky romp through the centuries, with Orlando — first as a man then as a woman — exploring sex, sexuality, sexism as well as ecstasy: where to find it, and with whom.

Ever since Emma Corrin catapulted to stardom, and then swiftly switching pronouns from she to they, the 26-year-old androgynous beauty has been the pin-up for non-binary identity

Ever since Emma Corrin catapulted to stardom, and then swiftly switching pronouns from she to they, the 26-year-old androgynous beauty has been the pin-up for non-binary identity

Penned in 1928, and inspired by Woolf’s passionate affair with aristocrat Vita Sackville-West when they were part of the boho Bloomsbury set but also married women, Orlando was a ground-breaking bid for self-determination.

And it remains so, wittily engaging with today’s often shrill debate about gender fluidity, rigid classifications and conventional expectations.

Bartlett’s approach is playful rather than pious, merrily dropping in lines from Shakespeare (an expert on the business of male actors playing female characters and cross-dressing as the part demands) and cheeky asides about whether the monarch prefers ‘Arthur or Martha’.

Orlando bursts on, tousle-haired and trouserless, complete with (fake) wedding tackle, pulling doublet and hose over long, slender, downy legs, asking: ‘Who am I?’

Who better, then, to play the title role in Neil Bartlett's funny but also moving adaptation of Orlando, Virginia Woolf's gender-bending, time-travelling flight of fancy?

Who better, then, to play the title role in Neil Bartlett’s funny but also moving adaptation of Orlando, Virginia Woolf’s gender-bending, time-travelling flight of fancy?

It's a frisky romp through the centuries, with Orlando, first as a man, then as a woman, exploring sex, sexuality, sexism as well as ecstasy

It’s a frisky romp through the centuries, with Orlando, first as a man, then as a woman, exploring sex, sexuality, sexism as well as ecstasy

A captivating Corrin — a timeless, ageless pixie with a shock of white hair — plays the role to perfection, combining the dash and dazzle of a kingfisher with the casual sense of entitlement of an aristo.

No wonder a crumbling, crotchety Queen Elizabeth (Lucy Briers) cannot resist. Orlando, however, can.

But when he is dumped by Millicent Wong’s amusingly feral Russian Princess, it is his turn to get hurt.

Halfway through, Orlando wakes up as a Victorian woman and off comes Corrin’s top to prove it. She dons a corset but remains the same buoyant, beguiling personality, in order to experience life as an ‘obedient, chaste and scented’ female.

Orlando bursts on, tousle-haired and trouserless, complete with (fake) wedding tackle, pulling doublet and hose over long, slender, downy legs

Orlando bursts on, tousle-haired and trouserless, complete with (fake) wedding tackle, pulling doublet and hose over long, slender, downy legs

A captivating Corrin, a timeless, ageless pixie with a shock of white hair, inhabits the role to perfection, combining the dash and dazzle of a kingfisher with the casual sense of entitlement

A captivating Corrin, a timeless, ageless pixie with a shock of white hair, inhabits the role to perfection, combining the dash and dazzle of a kingfisher with the casual sense of entitlement

Bartlett has deftly expanded the role of Orlando’s housekeeper, Mrs Grimsditch, (hilariously earthy, mumsy Deborah Findlay) to that of a cockney wardrobe-mistress. 

Chatting to the audience (‘Boys and girls and, er, everyone,’ she says, covering all possibilities) while helping her mercurial master (and then, mistress) into dozens of different costumes, she guides us through Orlando’s giddying adventures.

Less successful is the chorus of nine donnish, bespectacled Virginias of all ages, in long skirts and cardies, appearing at intervals. While they remind us of the reality behind the fantasy, Woolf’s voice remains a blur.

The design disappoints too, evoking none of Woolf’s glorious descriptions of landscapes.

As a hymn to beauty, Michael Grandage’s production (Corrin aside) misses the mark. As a joyous ode to freedom, though, he nails it.

As a hymn to beauty, Michael Grandage's production (Corrin aside) misses the mark. As a joyous ode to freedom, though, he nails it

As a hymn to beauty, Michael Grandage’s production (Corrin aside) misses the mark. As a joyous ode to freedom, though, he nails it

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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