adapted by Sarah Ruhl from the novel by Virginia Woolf.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 22 March 2014.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Wed & 6 March 2.30pm, Sat 3.30pm.
Audio-described 22 March 3.30pm.
BSL Signed 18 March.
Captioned 11 March.
Post-show Discussion 13 March.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 February.
An adaptation that reaches to the heart of matters and takes flight.
Room of one’s own – room to realise one’s identity, to enter into that identity as a writer. That’s what Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel explored for its eponymous Elizabethan courtier, who changes sex mid-voyage, and mid-17th century, becoming a woman up till the present day. On stage she goes from quill pen to typewriter, before superseding her author’s period with a computer.
But what matters isn’t the external technology; it’s finding the right voice – being the right person.
And the right person to adapt this experimental fantasy is clearly American Sarah Ruhl. For she enters into the core of Woolf’s concern, rather than merely tailoring external events to the requirements of a stage and a set playing-time. Her adaptation is playful – hopping or leaping forward in time, playing female roles from Elizabeth I onwards by men, allowing no time to pause and reflect.
Except for the one exception. Throughout, Orlando is a Candide-like innocent wondering at what happens around him/her. But early on (while still he) he meets Russian Sasha, and embarks upon a love that does slow matters down in its intensity. And it’s a love that survives centuries and a sex-change.
Their mutual passion soars, as they fly above the world, one atop the other. Elsewhere, more mundane matters occur as, for example, Orlando adjusts to changing fashions in women’s clothing, with their inconveniencies and constrictions.
Director Max Webster uses minimal staging, some aspects seeming designed to emphasise obstructions in cross-dessed movement. A ’cellist sits and plays, underscoring moments – the ’cello played live is an instrument of choice in theatre these days. Its richness and ability with scampering sounds fit many occasions and moods.
As Orlando, Suranne Jones rightly goes with the innocence – in, for example, the repeated attempts at writing and surprise the few words inscribed fall flat. Apart from a few vocal effects – especially when she first has to introduce herself and respond as a woman – she doesn’t go for technical virtuosity but sticks with reacting to the surprises the centuries engender within Orlando.
Performance, production and script admirably catch the serious playfulness in Woolf’s novel.
Orlando: Suranne Jones.
Sasha: Molly Gromadzki.
Chorus: Richard Hope, Thomas Arnold, Tunji Kasim.
Director: Max Webster.
Designer: Ti Green.
Lighting: Chaarles Balfour.
Sound/Composer: Isobel Waller-Bridge.
Movement: liz Ranken.
Aerial consultant: Vicku Amedume.