Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

08/06/2016 - 11/06/2016

Production Details

Sarah Ruhl’s plays include The Clean House, Eurydice, Passion Play, In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play, The Oldest Boy.

“We had no choice but to confess… He was a woman” 

Orlando is the transhistorical, transgender journey of an aspiring poet: Queen Elizabeth’s 16 year old nobleman-lover in the 16th century, an ambassador in Constantinople who becomes a woman at 30 at the dawn of the 18th century, a wife in the Victorian era, and still only 36 in the 1920s.

Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation extracts the vibrant poetic language from Virginia Woolf’s novel and infuses it with her own signature style and musicality, resulting in an undeniably transformative theatrical experience. 

Performed by Cian Gardner, Megan Goldsman, Jessica Hall, Katherine Harrison, Liam Hinton, Calum Hughes, Nadia Manarangi-George, Nanati Molu, Missy Mooney, Philippa Perry, Samantha Rowe, Jaimee Wiggins.

PLAYHOUSE Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
8 – 11 June 2016
Door Sales, Cash Only, $10 Concession / $12 Full
Bookings: Southby@Waikato.Ac.Nz , Ph. 838 4922

Cian Gardner – Orlando
Megan Goldsman – Euphosyne; Miss Penelope Hartropp; Chorus
Jessica Hall – Desdemona; Salesperson; Chorus
Katherine Harrison – Grimsditch (Maid 1); Chorus
Liam Hinton – Russian sea man; Marmaduke Shelmerdine; Chorus 
Calum Hughes – Othello; Archduchess/Archduke; Elevator Man; Chorus
Nadia Manarangi-George – Sea Captain; Chorus
Nanati Molu – Rosina Pepita; Dupper (Maid 2); Chorus 
Missy Mooney – Sasha (Princess Marousha Romanovitch); Chorus
Philippa Perry – Queen Elizabeth I; Washerwoman; Chorus
Samantha Rowe – Favilla; Chorus 
Jaimee Wiggins – Clorinda; Chorus 

Creative Team 
Direction & production management: Gaye Poole
Costume design & construction: Cherie Cooke
Stage management: Amy Thomas
Lighting design & operation: Alec Forbes
Graphic design: Vincent Owen
Still Photography: Michael Smith
Choreographed 'motifs': Fiona Murdoch
Videography: Luke Jacobs, Shannon Saw
Administrative support: Alison Southby

Production Teamsm 
Wardrobe: Nanati Molu, Cian Gardner, Philippa Perry
Props: Samantha Rowe, Nadia Manarangi-George, Jessica Hall 
Set & Sound props: Missy Mooney, Calum Hughes, Megan Goldsman
Marketing: Liam Hinton, Katherine Harrison, Jaimee Wiggins. 

Thanks for Props
David Cooke, Lily Empson, David Garrity, Richard Homan, Cecilia Mooney, Ngaire Rowe,  Fiona Sneyd, Tracey Slaughter, Shirley Scott, Alison Southby, Sara Young; Hamilton Cathedral Bell Ringers (Captain, Wendy Tyrrell); Carving in Ice Theatre

Special thanks
Jonathan Eyers, Anna Mahon, Alex Pelham-Waerea, Igor Rychkov, Jeremy Tomkins.

Front of House Volunteers
Taila Burton, Conor Gyde, Conor Maxwell, Kelly Petersen, Georgia Pollock, Bree Swales.

Theatre ,

Joyously well-played

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 09th Jun 2016

I do like a good programme full of notes and information, and tonight’s programme does not disappoint me. Even better, given that I am not a huge Virginia Woolf fan (so sue me) and do not know the work of American playwright Sarah Ruhl who has adapted this Woolf novel of the same name, Orlando

So as I wait for the show to begin, I am devouring the programme. There is a brief note from the show’s director Gaye Poole; she explains that this play’s production is a rigorous and demanding Theatre Studies paper. Not only has the company rehearsed the work and prepared to perform it, but also they have been responsible for the production of the play – taking roles in set and sound, properties, wardrobe and marketing.

On top of these responsibilities, the company has several other tasks to complete as part of the assessment for the paper. Immediately I get that sense of dread, as this is where I feel there is the potential to be sitting watching a disaster unfold: not all who take to the stage are naturally given to the roles of those on the other side of the curtain; certainly a greater number of performers fail to juggle both at once with any success. 

Let’s couple this with the reality of this play. It’s not your garden-variety ‘beginning, middle and end’ play, nor does it have a villain to be caught or celebrated. As company member Calum Hughes explains in his programme note of interpretation: “Orlando isn’t really ‘about’ any one thing.” As I read his note, I become truly fascinated as to what it is I will see and experience here tonight. 

I do see, from the cast list, some familiar names from other Poole directed productions: Missy Mooney, Calum Hughes, Cian Gardner and Liam Hinton have all shone in former productions, which I have enjoyed. I do find myself feeling confident that in these talented young players we will see a great show tonight. 

The lights go down and, with a simple yet effective ‘motif’ dance, we meet our chorus of players and our lead: Orlando (Cian Gardner) who at once appears as Romeo in a lace frill collar; Queen Elizabeth 1 certainly finds him quite adorable and he is whisked away to her majesty’s court. There are plenty of rich laughs first off, which always bodes well, but as I’m not really sure what is going on or where this play will take me, I have to keep my wits firmly about me.

I am instantly taken with the playwright’s style: the entire cast acts as narrator; there are no traditional scenes of dialogue, as even Orlando himself prefaces his own actions with chunks of narration. Here Gaye Poole shows her genius with the expert manipulation of a large chorus. She has done a great job with her players, in getting them script fit so that their fluidity is on point. Sensational! 

Bored with being the queen’s plaything, Orlando pursues a Russian Princess on ice skates. This is brilliant – spoiler alert – as both the princess (artfully played by Missy Mooney who is a delight to watch; her accent is flawless, which is a relief, nothing worse than a badly played accent) and Orlando play the scene on roller blades while chorus members scrape cutlery over knife steels (well, from where I sit that is what it looks like they are using) which provides that all too familiar sound of blades on ice (a sound I know well from a childhood of winter holidays spent in Central Otago). This is this kind of smart, inventive thinking that really marries the script to our cast and their delivery.  

The Princess breaks Orlando’s heart; he has an odd encounter with a Romanian and presently runs off to Constantinople. Here is where we see the first of a few very cool costume changes. As our chorus is also the show’s musicians and stage hands – setting all of the props from a heavily laden table up stage – they do not get to leave the stage for more than a minute, if that, so it is artful thinking to have the chorus dressed in layers. As Orlando travels through the world, and through time, the chorus stays in time with him by peeling away at their layers.  

During the intermission, I reflect that this wardrobe – designed and constructed by Cherie Cooke – is a deliberate and smart complement to the design of the production. I venture that a great deal of thought has gone into how much more power the costuming bestows upon the piece’s messages of change and adaptation. 

Although I know this is a good play, I am still unsure of the point, but I find myself not caring. It’s a well-executed romp of fancy thus far and I ask myself if it needs to be anything more. 

As the lights dim on the second half I am once again swept into the world of Orlando, who has returned to Mother England quite changed. Orlando needs to be married it would appear and so we follow Orlando’s quest for a partner. Enter chorus member Liam Hinton who dominates the second half of the show with his exceptional portrayal of Marmaduke Shelmerdine. Liam always impresses me and again this evening I am not disappointed. His acting is assured and bold, he frequently borders on stealing the show from Orlando. So does Calum Hughes, who steps out of the chorus to play the Archduke: he is compelling, playing the lovelorn buffoon with charm. 

As this delightful show closes, I am so glad I took the job to review it. I am already a fan of Gaye Poole and of the actors I aforementioned. And, at its conclusion I must agree with Calum Hughes’ note. This is a show to be enjoyed by lovers of literature, history or travel. I would add, this joyously well-played piece of theatre is the ideal winter’s evening of entertainment for any person who likes to see fresh, innovative theatre that will make you think.

If I have one gripe with this show it is Cian Gardner’s portrayal of Orlando. I have seen Gardner deliver strong, confident performances over the past couple of years and Orlando is the kind of character who demands to be played faultlessly, yet tonight she stumbles over a few lines, and as the second half of the show unfolds her energy falls away.

I understand that it is no small feat to play the leading role, and I do feel that each company member has, as Poole’s programme note describes, had a lot to do in order to get this play off the page and on to the stage. But I am not prepared to make excuses and I certainly hope that Gardner is able to lift her game to that of the rest of the company. The production will be better for it.  

The motifs which are peppered throughout the play are inspired work by choreographer Fiona Murdoch, who brings a great deal of subtle progression throughout the show, and certainly I feel at times brings a life-saving energy to the stage. Movement advances the story and our journey at a delightful pace and brings real texture to the performance. The chorus move fluently together and are a joy to watch. 

The simple and effective lighting, designed and operated by Alec Forbes, is at all times just enough; its subtlety underpins the show economically and well.

As I walk to my car around the lakeside of the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, I am lost in reflection. What a thoroughly enjoyable night – made such by the smart and savvy of Gaye Poole, and the evidently tireless work of the company.   

Orlando is lovely theatre, done exceptionally well, and at the ticket price, it’s a steal. If you do attend I ask (as we were asked in the foyer prior to the show, seeming to fall on some deaf ears) please, switch your cell phone off, and give this great show the respect it deserves; a respect it certainly earned from me tonight. 


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Fun, engaging, highly accessible

Review by Ross MacLeod 09th Jun 2016

Orlando is a play that finds a curious balance in its substance. Boiled down to a plot it tells of a young boy who gains the favour of Queen Elizabeth and the somehow becomes a woman who barely ages for the next 500 years. However by neatly straddling between realism and surrealism, the play becomes a series of vignettes of different eras, the mechanics and practicalities of the tale taking back seat to moments and characters. There are certainly themes and messages to be taken from it: the sense of self, the shifts in gender politics, the existential angst of immortality; but the play dances over them all so lightly that it is left to the audience to draw them together for themselves. In some plays this might be frustrating but here it feels effective.

The production plays up the humour of the text to great effect, infusing it with a vitality that matches that of the central figure. In the title role Cian Gardener truly shines. She has the energy and innocence of youth, combined with wide eyed discovery and awkward embarrassment. In this she embodies the joy of the character but is convincingly able to transition into moments of melancholy. Her Orlando can be pretentious without ever being exasperating and indulgent without being selfish. As the central character she gives the play a strong core on which to build its scenes.

There are some nice characters among the supporting cast. Phillppa Perry gives an aging Queen Elizabeth with strength and presence balanced by infirmity and insecurity. Missy Mooney’s Russian Princess Sasha has an energetic aloofness as she quite literally skates through life. And Calum Hughes has great fun camping up such roles as an actor playing Othello and the cloying Archduchess/Archduke (Orlando is not the only character who’s gender is questionable).

The chorus are variable in their confidence and delivery, sometimes feeling a little wooden but never so frequently or so much as to detract from the enjoyment they appear to be having in their roles. Dance and musical numbers are imprecise but this is not musical theatre and the simple effectiveness of a hand bell quartet is used to great effect.

Orlando is an enjoyable and competent university theatre production with the highs and lows that often come attached. It’s a fun and engaging way to spend an evening and while the ending does tend towards more abstraction, the material remains highly accessible. 


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