THEATER

Emma Corrin Is Pulling a Tilda Swinton and Playing Virginia Woolf’s Orlando

Emma Corrin wearing a gold cone bra atop a jacket
Photographed by Tim Walker; styled by Harry Lambert

Before Emma Corrin came along, it was hard to imagine who could possibly live up to Tilda Swinton’s performance in Orlando, Sally Potter’s adaptation of the seminal 1928 Virginia Woolf novel. Two decades later, the 26-year-old breakout star of The Crown season 4 is getting their chance to prove that they have what it takes by starring in a Neil Bartlett theater adaptation that will be directed by Michael Grandage. (The play will mark their second joint project in a row; Grandage also directed My Policeman, the upcoming romantic drama featuring Corrin opposite Harry Styles.) Their casting is a testament to their versatility: Whereas the last character Corrin played onstage was the scammer Anna Delvey, the titular Orlando is a nobleman who suddenly transforms into a woman after spending hundreds of years living as a man.

A nearly century-old novel may sound obscure, but you’re likely more familiar with Orlando than you think. In the 94 years since it was published, the book has heavily influenced the way we think about gender and permeated everything from fashion to film. Take the 2020 Met Gala: Woolf was credited as the so-called “ghost narrator” of its theme and accompanying exhibition. The curators even welcomed visitors with a recording of Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep reading excerpts from the 1928 book. The next year, Kim Jones invited the models he cast in his debut Fendi show to do the same—some while wearing boots and carrying miniaudières featuring quotes from the book.

Given the nuance that Grandage and Corrin are said to have brought to My Policeman, we’re guessing (or at least hoping) that they’ll do the same with their Orlando adaptation. For example, few have addressed what the photographer Paul Mpagi Sepuya described to Swinton as its “barbaric racism” when she curated his work in an Orlando-themed exhibition in 2019. We’ll just have to wait and see when the play hits the West End this fall.