After Miss Julie – Project Arts Centre, Dublin

Writer: Patrick Marber

Director: Emma Jordan

Reviewer: Laura Marriott

After Miss Julie is a re-imagining of the classic August Strindberg play Miss Julie. Brought to the Dublin stage by Prime Cut Productions it began today what must surely be a successful run at Temple Bar’s The Project Arts Centre. Celebrated writer Patrick Marber has re-located the play from an English country house on the day of Labour’s landslide 1945 election win to County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It is V.E. day and as the celebration rages on upstairs Miss Julie descends downstairs. The night is only just beginning and soon the lives of all involved are turned upside down.

The play takes place mainly in the kitchen. A large wooden table dominates the scene with an Aga stove, decorative white and blue crockery adorning the walls and a concrete slab floor. These features are all emblematic of a typical country kitchen run by its servants. It is an intimate setting, a place where the aristocrats are never supposed to go.

Moving the action of the play to Northern Ireland gives it a new lease of life as it is presented to an Irish audience in a familiar setting, opening up new avenues of exploration. The country house itself is a shadow of the old order which is under attack by modernism and the shockwaves of the war.

Chauffeur John (Ciaran McMenamin) has returned from war and settled back into his life as faithful servant and perhaps friend to the master of the house. His class ideals and ambition come to the fore in his almost violent interactions with Miss Julie (Lisa Dwyer Hogg). Rounding off the love triangle is Christine (Pauline Hutton), a fellow servant who works in the kitchen and appears keen for the pattern of life to stay safe, and stable, while all about her is changing. Seemingly immune to the passions that have engulfed the others in the house Christine perhaps proves to be the most surprising character of them all.

Hogg excellently captures the multifaceted Miss Julie; her confusion, pride, arrogance and need to be loved are at the heart of this tragedy. Interestingly, the characters we are rooting for at the start of the play are not necessarily the characters we are rooting for in the end. Director Emma Jordan works well with Marber ensuring the complex emotions and ideas that drive the characters are understood by the audience.

This intense, passionate play thrills and enthrals in equal measure as the audience try to keep up with the ever changing emotional state of the characters. As the play draws to a close, church bells are heard to chime in the background. Are they ushering in a new dawn, or acting as a reminder of a life that has always been?

Runs until March 19th 2016 | Image: Ciaran Bagnall.

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