Tuesday, 30 April 2019

REVIEW: Miss Julie at the Jermyn Street theatre

Having seen Creditors in the matinee performance it was very exciting to return to the Jermyn Theatre to see a second Strindberg adaption by Howard Brenton, directed by Tom Littler in repertory until 1st June. In Miss Julie, James Sheldon returns this time as Jean and Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Kristin having just played in an excellent staging of Creditors. Could they repeat and sustain their performances in this different play from the same period, originally written in 1888?

The first thing you notice is that the white panels of Creditors have been stripped away to transform the space to the period kitchen of the Earl's Manor while the Earl is away. The brilliant practical set by Louie Whitemore with working hob and running water provides a realistic setting for this downstairs drama when the domesticity and simple life of the cook, Kristin and the Valet, Jean is thrown into chaos by the arrival of aristocratic Miss Julie from upstairs.

Kristin played with a quiet charm by Dorothea Myer-Bennett slowly sets the opening scene of normal downstairs life. Director Tom Littler takes his time as she prepares a meal and we hear the offstage party in the barn and then gently teases out her relationship with her "fiancée" Jean and explains the erratic behaviour of Miss Julie describing her as raving mad and insane. When Miss Julie (Charlotte Hamblin) arrives overexcited like a wild child flirting extravagantly with Jean, the domesticity of life downstairs is challenged and can never return to the quiet normality.

The problem with the adaption is that I never really believed in the situation or the central character and the wild swings in the relationship between Miss Julie and Jean. Whereas the early scenes were believable and realistic and took their time, the key scenes seemed to jump about without convincing justification. The seduction scenes between them were sexy and confident, the aftermath seemed rushed and unconvincing. Surely Miss Julie still had the power to take control of the situation and not become meek and irrational and the turn of events would take longer to evolve?

Creditors seemed relevant to a modern audience but although the cast worked hard to make it work, Miss Julie's exploration of class differences and morality seemed dated and unrealistic and fell short of the standard set by the accompanying play.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls, Row E | Price of Ticket: £30
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