Orlando at the Garrick Theatre: A West End Review

8 December 2022

Emma Corrin, better known as the young Diana in the Netflix version of The Crown, gives a superlative performance as Orlando in this new adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel currently playing at London’s Garrick Theatre, just a few steps from Trafalgar Square.

To fully enjoy the play, I would recommend reading the book, or if time doesn’t allow, to research the essence of the play which is a work of political satire and feminine fantasy.

Orlando is a highly political and savage satire on sexism. In his opening speech, Orlando asks the question “Who Am I?” which lays the groundwork for today’s cultural landscape and boundaries of gender. The book, which was first published in 1928, portrays Woolf as a modernist writer often at odds with often staid and complacent assumptions. She was aware of the strict gender roles of men and women, and felt people should seek experiences that blur the rigid boundaries between men and women to create a truth of their own.

Her novel and the play pays homage to the family of Woolf’s friend Vita Sackville-West, dating back to her ancestor Thomas Sackville. Orlando, as the protagonist, is a member of the English nobility who was born a male in sixteenth century England. In the play, we see Corrin as the male Orlando living through several centuries, yet only aging a few years, and awakening in Constantinople from a deep sleep, having changed into a female.

Corrin portrays a compression of all of Orlando’s many selves, times, lovers and histories aided by Mrs Grimsditch, her dresser, admirably played by Deborah Findlay, A.K.A. the mother in BBC’s The Split.

In the play, Orlando is surrounded by many Virginia Woolf’s, all dressed in similar spinster attire, of long skirts and cardigans.

Orlando plays until 25 February, 2023.