review Orlando Royal Lyceum
Thursday 15 August 1996
In Sally Potter's magical, sumptuous 1993 film, Orlando also became a camply astute commentary on national pride and its self deceptions. Jonathan Miller recently claimed that the English "would wade through a lake of pus" to get to a country house. The film guyed this national trait by subverting the tradition of the Brideshead / Howards End-type movie. Beautifully reimagining the book in cinematic terms, the film's last view of an Orlando now liberated from her past was of her as a National Trust visitor to her old home, seen through the wobbly camcorder of her little daughter.
A hard act, this, to follow. Does Robert Wilson's stage version - a solo show starring Miranda Richardson - offer a comparably fresh and thematically developed vision of the piece? The answer, I'm afraid, is no. This highly abstract and choreographed staging has, by and large, nothing to declare but its technique.
With her unnerving translucency and a boyish red bob, Richardson cuts a convincingly ambiguous figure in the earlier scenes. But there's a painful lifelessness and tricksy aridity about the Jacobean and Constantinople episodes that continues up to and through the moment of her gender change. Bafflingly, this takes place with Ms Richardson hidden behind a gigantic absurdist tree, her elongated drawlings punctuated by the recorded sounds of smashing glass. The fact that Richardson begins by delivering her story as restrospect encourages her to develop an alienatingly knowing attitude to experiences we should see her living through without the sophistication of hindsight.
The show improves enormously once Orlando is a woman. The stage pictures begin to have real thematic bite, as when the onset of repressive Victorianism is represented by a tailor's dummy in a funereal bombasine dress which moves in and topples as the tension mounts, with Richardson adopting a similarly broken pose by its side. Later, as she discourses on the new rigid craze for getting married, it accompanies her across the stage, creating a droll but telling glimpse of non-heterosexual coupledom.
All that is left, disappointingly, of the theme of women and literature is Richardson writing in the air a couple of times with her finger. For a feminist piece, the show, as a whole, offers the paradoxical spectacle of an actress being put through extremely regimented paces by a male director.
n To 21 Aug
Books And it is whizzpopping!
MusicThey're running their own restaurants
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cecil the lion: Dentist Walter Palmer blames local guides in Zimbabwe for the scandal
- 2 Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
- 3 Norwich paedophile ring: Woman at centre of gang who made children 'sexual play things' guilty of 23 offences
- 4 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
- 5 Walter Palmer: Cecil the lion killer revealed to be American dentist
New on Netflix August 2015: From Narcos and Spellbound to Kick Ass 2 and Dinotrux
Listen! Beowulf opening line misinterpreted for 200 years
Heath Ledger's father reveals dead actor's 'Joker diary' written during The Dark Knight
Game of Thrones season 6: New toy line suggests Jon Snow is not among the dead
Spectre: Ellie Goulding is almost definitely singing the theme song to the next Bond film
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband