Tag Archives: Stella Powell-Jones




Jermyn Street Theatre



Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 4th May 2022



“The fine cast of five deliver Ruhl’s honed script with gorgeous vivacity, tongues in cheeks and glints in eyes”


It is easy to fall into a debate about whether Virginia Woolf’s “Orlando” would have the same impact as it did nearly a century ago if she had written it in today’s climate. But we’re going to avoid that digression here. Clearly, it’s influence and relevance is as powerful now as it ever was, not just in its treatment of the subject of gender, but as a satiric look at history, literature and convention. Published in 1928, it was one of Woolf’s best-selling books. And the most enjoyable. Woolf declared while writing it that “my body was flooded with rapture and my brain with ideas”. The novel’s popularity and longevity were practically guaranteed before she even put pen to paper.

And it continues. Both ‘high art’ and gossipy at the same time it has been adapted for theatre and film, most notably Sally Potter’s 1992 release starring Tilda Swinton. Continuing the trend is Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Choosing not to compete with the big budgets, this is a playful and low-key reimagining that focuses on the humour and the subtle mischief; without trying to shoe-horn the original story into a contemporary setting.

We begin in the reign of Elizabeth I. Orlando (Taylor McClaine) is born as a male nobleman with poetic ambitions. With dubious motives, the Virgin Queen adopts him as a pageboy, and a plaything, until her death when Orlando promptly falls for Sasha, an excitable and unreliable Russian princess (a wonderfully skittish but underused Skye Hallam). Orlando’s heart is broken by Sasha, so he briefly returns to his abandoned poetry before heading for Constantinople. It is here that Orlando inexplicably falls asleep for days and awakens to find that he has metamorphosed into a woman. Completely accepting of the change, she is the same person, same personality, same intellect, and while she stays biologically female her amorous inclinations swing both ways throughout the ensuing centuries.

There is a lot to cram into an hour and a half of stage time. The fine cast of five deliver Ruhl’s honed script with gorgeous vivacity, tongues in cheeks and glints in eyes. There is an old-fashioned quality that simultaneously has a timeless feel. We are in the past and the present. They are like a bygone travelling troupe of players who have pitched up in Piccadilly. McClaine, in the titular role, is a delight to watch throughout. Star quality is etched across their performance; a performance imbued with a deadpan humour that matches the ease with which the character switches roles, genders and sensibilities.

Tigger Blaize, Rosalind Lailey and Stanton Wright play the numerous other roles and, comprising a chorus, the trio narrate the story with clarity and precise timing, overlapping the narrative and weaving threads of comedy and insight into the dramatic backdrop. At one point, following the throwaway line “… then he was she…”, we almost expect the chorus to launch into Lou Reed’s “Hey, babe, take a Walk on the Wild Side”.

All in all, though, the production is not quite a walk on the wild side. It still remains relatively safe, veering towards the shock-free traditional. It seems that the memo about safety didn’t reach designer Emily Stuart, whose costumes are daring, colourful and brilliant – a highlight of the show – which add to the sense of fun and irreverence.

This adaptation teases out the theatricality of Woolf’s novel. If the innate radicalism doesn’t quite cut through, the playfulness, the wit and the satirical undertows certainly do. “Orlando” was ahead of its time a century ago. Today it is certainly very much of the time. Make time to see it.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Steve Gregson



Jermyn Street Theatre until 28th May


Previously reviewed at this venue:
This Beautiful Future | ★★★ | August 2021
Footfalls and Rockaby | ★★★★★ | November 2021
The Tempest | ★★★ | November 2021


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The Play About my Dad – 4 Stars


The Play About my Dad

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 29th June 2018


“Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo”


It is hard to imagine the horror of being caught up in Katrina, the category five hurricane that caused catastrophic damage along the gulf coast of America in 2005. Along with claiming some 2,000 lives it caused $125 billion worth of property damage as well as having a profound impact on the environment.

To do justice to the panic, horror and loss those involved must have experienced in a stage show is very difficult. However Boo Killebrew has written a play that travels through many times and places and successfully achieves that.

The Play About My Dad is an autobiographical account of her own experiences of the event along with stories of some that experienced the full force of Katrina. Running alongside these stories, which are fictionalised versions of what likely happened to them, is her reaction to the breakdown of her parent’s marriage and the subsequent reconnection with her father following his survival of the hurricane.

The two main characters are Boo herself (Hannah Britland) and her father Larry (David Schaal), a doctor called into action when the storm struck and who serves as the play’s narrator. They are performing and writing a play that tells these stories and it is an interesting vehicle that allows Boo to interact with the characters despite her having been partying in New York at the time.

We are introduced to the young Thomas family who decide not to evacuate to safer ground. Joel Lawes as Jay Thomas projects a relaxed southern approach to life and always has a positive approach to survival not necessarily shared by his wife Rena (Annabel Bates) and son Michael (T’Jai Adu-Yeboah). Also staying put is Larry’s elderly former nanny Essie Watson, played with conviction by Miquel Brown. Ammar Duffus and Nathan Welsh play two Emergency Medical Technicians and they connect and interact well every time they are on stage. There is pessimism and hope in equal measures. Juliet Cowan makes brief but impactive appearances as Sallye Killebrew.

Charlotte Espiner’s set is very basic with pallets, boxes and sheets of plywood that gives the impression of both protection and reconstruction. The lighting design from Ali Hunter is simple but effective with great use of blue under lighting to represent the incoming water and a chilling session when we listen to events in complete darkness.

The direction from Stella Powell-Jones moves the ninety minute no interval play along well ensuring attention is never lost. Elena Peña’s sound design is clever keeping the studio levels of a 175mph hurricane low, though never out of mind.

I felt the cast did everything expected of them, and rarely did I think they were acting. For the writer though, it must be difficult watching someone portray her on stage. In the playbook she writes ‘And as for the actress playing Boo, please make her really likable’. Hannah Britland doesn’t disappoint, she is a brilliant Boo.


Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Harry Livingstone


The Play About my Dad

Jermyn Street Theatre until 21st July


Previously reviewed at this venue
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018


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