Photo – Sarah Walker
Orlando, based on the book by Virginia Woolf, is a story about an immortal young man who lives through centuries and transforms from nobleman to gypsy, from man to woman, searching for love, passion, adventure and youth.
The tale is one of the great interrogations into gender, sexuality and identity in the 20th Century.
The Rabble have wrenched apart this classic text and created a new work that highlights the fractured psyche of Orlando, the malleability of gender and the precarious volatility of identity.
A white curtain is draped along the back wall; a mirror stands on a wooden pool of milky white water while a frame of light bulbs is suspended from above. The stark canvas was beautiful and reflected back onto the idea of identity of both self and other.
While we followed Orlando through his moments of devastation love, hate and humiliation, the other performers would disappear behind the mirror, returning in different forms and characters, sometimes familiar and revisited, sometimes a completely new and seen only once.
Each moment of the work is a careful exploration of the moments in the story of Orlando, populated within a thematic framework of Orlando’s transformation. I assume it was carefully considered; that doesn’t mean that they weren’t also contrived and self-indulgent. The story of Orlando is indeed a rich stimulus for a group such as The Rabble who describe their process as re-imagining the familiar, and forming new contexts for existing texts and stories. But what was the purpose of this particular re-contextualisation, I wonder? Watching a woman boil a kettle for two minutes? Saying the word ‘penis’ repeatedly in an accent? Drinking from a baby’s bottle? Watching a woman going through expressing milk? Watching a woman watching a woman express milk?
The ideas presented felt like the first draft of a devised project in drama school – not particularly innovative, not giving the audience enough credit to keep up and quite frankly not aesthetically striking enough to justify such bland and seemingly indulgent content.
I was not entertained, I was not moved, I did not learn anything and I lost interest very quickly. While all three were indeed wonderful performers, this was not a piece of theatre that I connected with in any way.
This being said, many people in the audience seemed to truly enjoy the work, there was a strong round of applause at the end, and some decent laughs throughout. It was just not my cup of tea.
I do encourage every-one to go out, see this production, make up your own mind and tell others what you thought.
Brisbane Festival and QUT present
Director Emma Valente
Venue: The Loft | QUT Creative Industries Precinct, Cnr Kelvin Grove Rd & Musk Ave, Kelvin Grove
Dates: 16 – 20 Sept, 2014
Tickets: $25.00 – $20.00