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Review of Orlando at the Vault Festival

OrlandoWhen does a play begin? When is art ever completed? What are beginnings and endings? Interesting questions, though I’m not sure Lucy Roslyn has the answers.

I’m sure, of course, that she wouldn’t pretend to have answered life’s big questions either. That would be pretentious. But we can at least ask of a play if it knows itself. It’s not clear what Orlando is supposed to be about.

Orlando is, of course, Virginia Woolf’s classic 1928 novel about a poet who changes genders and time zones, and has become a source text for gender and queer theories across the last century.

Roslyn’s adaptation is a one woman, highly-condensed but also expanded, meditation on bisexuality, time and also the Elephant Man (somehow). Ranging from tearjerker to cranky comedy, it’s not really clear where it’s all going. Or where it ends up.

Roslyn confounds expectations by rushing through a brief synopsis of the plot in about 5 minutes, before going on to talk about herself. A lot. For the rest of the play, in fact. She tries to bring the audience onside with the odd ‘he knows’, ‘yeh, you know what I mean’; these are sometimes funny, sometimes a little uncomfortable. Perhaps she’s playing her gags to a specific audience (which, it appears, didn’t include me), perhaps the jokes aren’t super funny. Perhaps it’s all a big exploration of performativity and ‘putting on a character’. This last interpretation takes on some plausibility towards the end of the show, when Roslyn begins talking about her own hidden bisexuality. But maybe that’s a performance too?

2 gold stars

Review by Thomas Froy

I’m sick to death of this particular self. I want another.
Have you ever lived outside yourself? Have you ever dreamed of escaping your identity, or yearned to leave behind those definitions handed down to you: loud or quiet, male or female, straight, gay, working/middle/upper class?

Lucy Roslyn’s new play is the story of a person looking for escape, a person desperate to leave behind the identitarian bullshit of 2019.

In 1928 Virginia Woolf imagined her own freedom through the character of Orlando. Heartbroken by her affair with Vita Sackville-West, Woolf created a young boy born in Elizabethan England, who lives and loves, writes and rewrites through four hundred years, ending her days as a woman in the twentieth century.

20th-24th February 2019
Vault Festival


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