A Shiny Life For Me!

a personal review blog by Bianca


22 December 2022
Garrick Theatre
2.5 out of 5.0 stars

Well, where to begin with this one. I am very split on my experience of this production, so perhaps we’ll start with the plot itself.

Orlando, the pivotal book by Virginia Woolf, exploring gender and sexuality through the adventures of the titular character, from his beginnings as a young nobleman at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, to first experiences with falling in love during the Great Frost, then mysteriously waking up as a woman and navigating the 18th and 19th century, unagingly, in her new body. Switching gender expression and sexuality frequently, it seems like the perfect work to re-examine in today’s climate to open a new discussion on gender and gender expression.

And the production does have it all, on the surface. Emma Corrin is a fantastic casting for the main character, as a very energetic and intense non-binary actor, they are the perfect choice here, effortlessly shifting from more masculine young Orlando through androgynous older Orlando, to an Orlando who fully embraces feminity at times, continually questioning identity, love, and societal expectations.

Orlando is accompanied by a pack of Virginia Woolfs, narrating the action and offering commentary throughout, while continually shifting into all the other characters throughout the play. And then there’s Mrs. Grimsditch, Orlando’s housekeeper, dresser, and friend. Offering advice and opinions and perpetual support.

Combine all this with simple but effective staging, an empty, dark stage with just a few items rolled out here and there. A large bed, a big backdrop, a lighted doorway. Nothing distracting, focussing the audience on the characters and plot rather than dazzling with effects.

On paper, it’s a winning combination, and yet I felt it fell rather flat. Throughout, the production feels sloppy and detached, like we are viewing something that is being retold, rather than feeling transported to the action. The characters rifting in and out of Orlando’s life aren’t fleshed out, they feel like hollow visitors, barely tangible.

And then there’s a feeling of dismissiveness of modern attitudes towards gender. Mr’s Grimsditch repeatedly addresses the audience as “Boys and girls and… everyone”, sounding almost exasperated that she has to add the qualifier at the end. Instead of weaving in an examination of how we view gender roles today, it almost felt as if “the good old days” were lauded for being less confusing, more solidly hashed out.

A big opportunity was missed to finish the play with Orlando exploring modern times, adding to the original story to add a contemporary edge, instead it fades out with Orlando walking away into a brightly lit doorway in 1928.

The years Orlando spent as a man felt more deeply explored than those spent as a woman, only scratching the surface of what it meant to be a woman, focusing on the limitations more than the opportunities, having Orlando question the rules governing society more than their own feelings and thoughts.

While it wasn’t a bad play in itself, I do feel it could have been a lot more and left theatre feeling disappointed.

Next Post

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2024 A Shiny Life For Me!

Theme by Anders Norén