Director Matthew Thomas Walker, with the company of Dalhousie’s Fountain School of Performing Arts fourth year acting students, tackle this ambitious play, and the result is a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
What happens in Orlando is complicated, and what it reflects in the world is even more so. The story is of a young nobleman, Orlando (Sophie Schade), who becomes a favourite of the queen, meets a Russian princess and falls in love, eventually flees heartbroken to Constantinople, then becomes, magically, a woman. As a woman, Orlando returns to London, falls in love with a sailor, then becomes disenchanted with the trappings of modernity. This all takes place over 400 years.
The play is manic, and this production amps that up with a cast of 14, constantly moving, constantly rearranging. Schade as Orlando is the only performer with a single role, with the rest bouncing around between chorus members and cameos in Orlando’s misadventures.
With such a large ensemble, the performances are inevitably uneven, but the quick pace of the play forgives many things. The live music, played by a rotating selection of the cast, was an excellent touch. Orlando never leaves the stage, and Schade is compelling to watch throughout. A standout supporting performance comes from Ursula Calder as Orlando’s maid and a chorus member, who has a mischievous spark that is hilarious and charming.
Orlando is a great play and this ensemble of students bring it to life with much success. It is strange, queer, fiercely feminist, and a great showcase of some emerging Halifax talent.
Virginia Woolf’s Orlando
Adapted by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Matthew Thomas Walker
David Mack. Murray Studio
Dalhousie’s Fountain School of Performing Arts