After Miss Julie review: ‘A triumph for director and his talented cast’
PUBLISHED: 11:16 28 November 2014
After Miss Julie is currently playing at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Joseph Kerr reviews the theatrical “triumph”.
Patrick Marber’s play is advertised as “a version” of Strindberg’s masterpiece, rather than “a translation”, and the distinction is important.
Whilst it sticks closely to the story line of the original, the change of scene from Sweden in the 1880s to Britain in 1945, and Marber’s distinctive style of dialogue, turn it into a surprisingly different piece.
Set in a country house kitchen in the course of the night which saw the election of the first post-war Labour Government, it shows the sudden flowering of sexual attraction between the daughter of the peer who owns the house and her father’s chauffeur – an attraction doomed from the start by the class system whose long process of dissolution was just about to accelerate.
It’s a subtly written version just as intense and disturbing as the original on which is it based, and it requires acting equally subtle and powerful for it to succeed on stage.
Which I was relieved to find that this production provided.
Let me say at once that the performances given by the three young actors in this piece were among the finest I’ve seen on any amateur stage, and at least the equal of many I’ve seen in the professional theatre.
Harry Harding, as John, conveyed exactly the right mix of self-assurance and servility that the role required.
Kim Southey was equally effective as his fiancée, the cook Christine; not just hurt and bewildered, but also contemptuous of the attempted dismantling of the old order.
The most complex and demanding role of the three is that of Miss Julie, played by Josie Matthews.
I have seen her acquit herself well in other parts at the Barn, but this extraordinary performance was an eye-opener; by turns cajoling and dismissive, intoxicated and depressed, she was always believable and magnetically watchable.
In short, a triumph – for director Darren Barsby as well as his talented cast.
The other star of this production is the set, designed by Eric Farlie, which gives an uncannily accurate representation of the kitchen of a big house, and by some magic makes the Barn stage look twice as big as it really is.
The illusion of reality was greatly aided by Simon Wallace’s atmospheric lighting.
All in all, a memorable production of a fascinating play.
* After Miss Julie continues at the Barn Theatre until Saturday, November 29, at 8pm, with an additional performance at 2.30pm on Saturday.
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