Orlando is a bashfully eccentric play. The tale follows the play’s eponymous gender-swapping duke, as he, she or they attempt to write their masterpiece, a poem called ‘The Oak Tree’. A sensitive soul, who has far too many love affairs for their own good, Orlando experiences life from the perspective of both genders and, in doing so, is able tackle some of the more oppressive stereotypes that are saddled onto both sexes.
Falstaff’s set is timeless, ideal for a play spaced over 300 years. The desk looks like it had been plucked right out of ‘The Death of Chatterton’ and seems exactly the place where a tortured artist might bare their soul to the world. There are some slightly more confusing set pieces such as a pink balloon-like thing, that hangs in the air and cloudy blue boxes that are brought on stage during the second act. However, these didn’t detract from the generally sensible set.
Eden and Celina, playing Orlando and narrator, respectively, are excellent, seamlessly swapping parts at the end of Act 1. They are both able to digest large chunks of complicated text, and recite with ease, that which would have tangled the tongues of even the most experienced orators. Frustratingly, every so often, booming music shaves precious lines from the captivating scripts, as the narrators fail to overpower the accompanying soundtracks. The inter-changing narrators pace around the room, effortlessly integrating with the audience, as they watch the action unfold, centre-stage. The Pegg’s entire space is swollen with dynamic dancing as actors perform with endless supplies of vivacity. Unfortunately, whilst the enthusiasm is certainly there, the movements are carless and messy, and the jolting contemporary music feels somewhat out of place.
Enchanting in the role of Sasha, Taylor sweeps across the stage, lighter than air. As she languidly dances across the floor, she captivates the attention of both Orlando and the bewitched audience. In youthful, passionate scenes, she rolls along the floor, intertwined with Orlando, limbs knotted in an intimate embrace. She embodies desire, like a siren, and with her confident trot, it is clear why Orlando is so mesmerised by her beauty.
Joe Palmer’s performance of Elisabeth I, is frighteningly convincing. Never have I seen a boy quite so suited to play the ageing and fragile monarch. Adorned in period makeup, he holds himself with a delicate femininity befitting of the jealous and possessive woman.
Livvie Newman perfectly captures the cheeky and vivacious spirit of Mrs Grimsditch. Although at times the high-pitched squeals feel somewhat laboured, and the character seems alarmingly 2-D, Newman’s performance undoubtedly steals the show. Every-time I heard her high-pitched screech or saw her spiritedly saunter onto stage, I would smile in anticipation of the witty adlibbed badinage that trips so effortlessly off her tongue.
If I looked up the definition of ‘creepy’ in the Oxford English dictionary, a picture of Jonny Fryer dressed as the Duchess would undoubtedly appear. Fryer’s Duchess is perhaps one of the most alarming and entertaining performances I have ever seen. With endless bounds of energy, Fryer prances across stage with the liveliness of a frightened gazelle, cackling as he leaps, in a shrill and unnerving screech that sent shivers down the spine. His performance is terrifying.
Overall, this play is daring. It is full of vitality and dynamism. Whilst the show is well adapted, at times it seems as though a few of the sub plots are glossed over, making them difficult to comprehend. I unfortunately felt as though I was grasping at scraps, desperately trying to keep up with the fast-paced and highly complex plot. The show seems to be lacking the professionalism that I believe would’ve tied together all of the loose ends. Regardless, the show is definitely worth a watch, and is an entertaining performance of a fascinatingly seminal work.