Review: Orlando, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Orlando.
Orlando.
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Lose yourself in the visual delight of this production and you will find yourself more than adequately rewarded.

The adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel, in a swiftly-moving two hours thanks to Sarah Ruhl, easily becomes a ‘magical comedy about love and time travel’.

That’s in no small part due to another eye-catching performance here by Suranne Jones, in the highly-physical and poetic title role, but also by a drilled chorus of three male actors and an unashamedly scene-stealing appearance from Molly Gromadzki, as Orlando’s love interest Sacha.

The fantastical tale of a sex-changing character on a 400-year odyssey around sexism will not be everyone’s idea of a theatre treat, but Max Webster’s smart direction, aided greatly by Liz Ranken’s movement coaching, ensures a sequence of ravishing scenes and several quite magical moments.

From the extortionately-hooped and fairly-lit dress of Elizabeth 1 (and yes it would be a good idea to acquaint yourself with the ‘story’, or at least read Jeannette Winterson’s programme notes beforehand) all the way to the glitzy Jazz Age finale, this is a production that is a full-fat feast for the eyes.

Take a time-travelling treat here until March 22.

David Upton