Writer : Patrick Marber after August Strindberg
Reviewer: Steve Turner
‘I have been unfaithful to the original‘ admits Patrick Marber about his adaptation of Strindberg’s late 19thCentury play Miss Julie. This highly acclaimed work is not a translation of the original, more a relocation both geographically and temporally, the setting now moved to an English country house just after the Labour landslide in the general election of 1945.
The subject matter of the divide between the classes remains, however, by moving the play forward some 60 years, Marber is able to convey the sense of the disruption to the old order of things with people now hankering after change following six years of war.
Set in a downstairs kitchen of a country estate, we meet John, chauffeur to the Lord of the Manor and fiancé of Christine, albeit unofficial as Christine herself explains – no ring you see. As John, Richard Flood is at times likeable, detestable, unfaithful, loyal, rebellious and dutiful – in fact, a perfect metaphor for many people of the time as they struggled to adapt to life out of the services. After fighting in the army he has returned back to his old employment and is clearly torn between his duty to his master and his feeling that with the war over, things need to change.
On the other side of the social divide is the Julie of the title, daughter of the Lord of the house. Like John she too is full of contradictions. Clearly enjoying the status her birth brings, she is still open to flirting outrageously with John, despite the presence of Christine and much to her obvious displeasure. Helen George conveys the conflicting emotions with considerable ease and, like Richard Flood’s John, can be adorable and unbearable almost in the same sentence. Unlike John though, Julie appears to be driven by whim and fancy and the desire to be loved, whereas John is more calculating and cold.
Throughout this drifts the steadfast Christine played by Amy Cudden. Loyal to her John and respectful towards Julie, she represents that well-known part of Britain so often connected with the war, and replicated today in the keep calm and carry on poster revival. Christine knows her place, she accepts it and is determined to make the best of it, she has no desire to better herself like John or to bring herself down like Julie. Hers is a world of make do and mend, something one suspects that will be drawn upon frequently should she end up marrying Jack.
The three cast members are all excellent in their roles, the interplay and timing between them faultless, helping to build the tension throughout. Adding to the sense of tension is the fact that there is only one act on the one set, lighting changes being used to convey the passage of time. Thanks to the skill of the writer and the cast the action never flags, in
Thanks to the skill of the writer and the cast the action never flags, in fact, there is a wonderful pace to the whole piece as the drama unfolds, never hurried but urgent at times, never slow but measured and sometimes teasing, this is a most accomplished production
Runs to 4 June 2016 |Image: Contributed