Orlando is a poignant and fun filled play based on Virginia Woolf’s spectacular novel, adapted by writer Sarah Ruhl, with its pioneering exploration of identity and gender. It is a wonderful story and this version is full of drama, insight and humour. Orlando is an excellent choice by the Sydney University Dramatic Society as their presentation for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The play follows Orlando from his time as privileged teenage boy through five centuries of English upper class life, a spontaneous gender transition, several diverse suitors, angst, marriage, civil unrest in Constantinople, gypsies and Orlando’s quest to write to alleviate the pettiness of much of their existence. There is a lot going and lots to explore and examine.
As a male Orlando almost thoughtlessly enjoys his joys and privileges. He is chosen to serve as a page at the Elizabethan court and becomes favourite of the elderly queen. Later he can enjoy pursuing lovers, hunting, fighting and life as the ambassador in Constantinople. After hosting a great party Orlando awakens to find that he has metamorphosed into a woman. She is now restricted by clothes, customs and attitudes. One simple but telling reversal is that she now serves tea to visitors instead of having tea served to her.
Director Sean Landis and his cast have enormous fun flirting, dancing, being melodramatic, playing up to caricatures, singing and having a great time. The audience was engaged and laughed at the exaggerations and silly nuances. These devices provided an excellent counterbalance to the ideas explored and the deep emotions aroused by this poignant story.
The excellent cast includes Isabelle Laxamana, Isla Mowbray, Madeleine Gandhi, Max Cattana, Rachel Seeto, Robbie Wardhaugh, Robin Eames and Sam Martin.
It was a delight to experience the musical accompaniment (string quartet, flute and keyboard) that supported the performance. Musicians were Verity Skala, Victoria Vu Tang, Jessica Snelleman and Claudia Stone-Stacy.
The team included Producer: Emily Henderson, Production Designer: Rosie Wylie, Assistant Producer: Ezara Norton, Circus Choreographer: Elliott Little, Set Designers: Iris Higginbotham and Paris Paris, Costume Designers: Dan Rogers and Hugo Fraser, Band Director / Composer: Sam Cheng, Sound Designer: Milly Kynaston, Hair & Makeup Artist: Tess Williams Assistant Hair & Makeup Artists / Stage Managers: Davina Oh and Shania O’Brien, Lighting Designer: Tom Hicks, Assistant Lighting Designer: Victoria Vu Tang, Graphic Designer: Aston J Ashley, Assistant Graphic Designer: Phoebe Russell, Interdisciplinary Artists: Christina Kim, Fergus Berney-Gibson, Kaylee Rankin and Zoe Clarke, AV Directors: Eoin O’Sullivan and Matthew Miceli, Production Assistant: Alex Bryant and Stagehand: Kaylee Rankin.
Orlando runs at The Cellar Theatre, Science Rd, The University of Sydney until 7th March. This is a very thoughtful and enjoyable show and with tickets at $12 the cramped and hot theatre space is a minor inconvenience compared to the benefits of experiencing this event.