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Matt Smith

‘Orlando…at the Present Time’

“Orlando…at the Present Time” is a small but surprisingly dense show,” writes Lucy Scholes. “Seventeenth-century portraiture sits alongside modern needlepoint; a screen on one wall plays the Royal Ballet’s acclaimed 2015 Woolf Works production, while another across the room shows scenes from Sally Potter’s film adaptation of Orlando (1992), starring Tilda Swinton. The exhibition sets out to demonstrate the novel’s relevance today, but confusingly, it’s the pieces relating to the book’s historical background that prove the most engaging. Cornelius Nuie’s oil painting The Two Sons of Edward, 4th Earl of Dorset (circa 1642–1651), for example, shows Vita’s ancestors, the youngest of whom, Edward, was killed in the English Civil War, but whom Woolf brought back to life as the model for her young Orlando, conferring on him a fictional immortality. Then there is Vita’s mother Victoria’s annotated copy of the novel; she doesn’t mince her words about what she thinks of Woolf: “I loath [sic] this woman for having changed my Vita and taken her away from me.”

On close examination, many of the more modern artifacts are only tenuously linked to the source text. Yet it could be said that, in its eclecticism, curator Darren Clarke has achieved a magpie’s collection that is true to the flamboyance and invention of Woolf’s novel.”

For more information, visit charleston.co.uk.

Category: Exhibition
Firle, Lewes,
East Sussex, United Kingdom