By Strindberg in a new version by Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Directed by Jamie Glover
(Paired with Black Comedy)
Venue: Minerva Theatre
Date: Monday 7th July 2014
I was the one nodding off this time. Whether it was just tiredness or a lack of energy on stage I don’t know, but this is certainly a difficult play to follow if you don’t give it your full attention. It meanders about and presents us with people whose background and expectations are very different from our own. There’s no clear unravelling of a plot, and if we don’t feel some kind of sympathy or understanding for the main characters it can be a hard struggle to find anything to enjoy. From the pre-show talk with Jamie Glover (a few days later) we learned that the preview phase can bring about many changes as the audience gives its feedback; perhaps we’ll see something different on our next viewing.
The set was quite elaborate. Raised up a couple of feet from the usual ground level, an arrow-head of wooden floorboards projected into the central space. This held the large table and chairs of the kitchen and not much else. On the table was an assortment of kitchen paraphernalia. Along the back wall from the left were a tiled cupboard(?) next to the stove, followed by the sink area with a large window above, through which we could see the branches of trees and a dark blue sky. Another cupboard stood next to the sink, then came the door to the outside and a large dresser stacked with plates. A coat was hanging on the extreme right side.
The play began in darkness, which I thought was a nice touch given the premise of the companion piece, Black Comedy. A servant came on and lit some of the lamps, which afforded us a little gloom to see by, and there were some odd snatches of fiddle music coming from offstage which developed into a lively dance tune accompanied by sounds of a dance. This faded out before the dialogue started.
Despite having seen this before, I found it difficult to follow what was going on this time, which perhaps contributed to my little snooze. I was more alert when Miss Julie herself appeared, and I felt this was a good performance from Rosalie Craig, who captured the character’s jittery nature very well. Jean’s calculating personality also came across pretty clearly, and his desire to get away and start up his own business chimed perfectly with Miss Julie’s passionate but impractical longing for ‘freedom’.
Their departure into another room was followed by the arrival of several of the farm workers. They were clad in brightly-coloured peasant costumes and doing a raunchy dance number. After they left, Miss Julie came back on stage and spent a few moments wiping her inner thighs. The final scenes, with the death of the bird and the return of the Count, were less convincing somehow. The casual way in which Miss Julie sentenced to death the one thing she had thought to take with her, was slightly shocking and showed the waywardness of her character; she’d be unlikely to follow through on any project, for all her apparent enthusiasm and willingness to take risks. The moment of ending wasn’t obvious, so the applause was a little slow to start, but the performance was well received from an almost full house.
With its depiction of social strata, this production made me think of Downton Abbey, and despite nodding off, I was aware of the work that had gone into this production. I’m confident that we will get more out of the next performance we see.
© 2014 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me