Review: Miss Julie, by August Strindberg; UK Touring Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, April 16

Felicity Rhys as Miss Julie in UK Touring Theatre's production of Miss Julie at the New Wolsey 2013

Felicity Rhys as Miss Julie in UK Touring Theatre's production of Miss Julie at the New Wolsey 2013 - Credit: Archant

This fast-paced Miss Julie takes place in Sweden over one night, Midsummer’s Eve 1888. That the play is dated becomes ever more apparent as this latest interpretation of Strindberg’s classic progressed to its tragic conclusion.

Strindberg is taking a bitter look at the class war: the aristocratic Miss Julie (Felicity Rhys) flirts with her father’s footman Jean (Adam Redmayne) and thanks to free-flowing wine and beer, things inevitably get out of hand. Miss Julie is duly seduced - thankfully off-stage – and they must face the consequences. Jean must also face his housekeeper fiancée Kristin (Sioned Jones) who apparently slept through the whole thing.

In the cold light of day Jean tells Julie it was just sex and attempts to ascribe this pragmatism to his class. Talk of love was merely a seduction technique. He taunts her with an escape plan but can he really throw off the shackles of subservience to marry a Count’s daughter? Now thoroughly humiliated, Julie’s options are limited and dire. She demands that Jean tell her what to do and he most cruelly does.

The audience wore the drama lightly and appreciated the comic asides, some perhaps more intentional than others. Sioned Jones did a grand job with some excellent Strindbergesque ‘naturalism’, a concept new to the original audience, as she busied herself at the stove and kept the kitchen clean and tidy.

Yet for all the sexual innuendo and actuality, which caused such outrage in 1888, this production didn’t sizzle like it could have done. That aside, director Denis Noonan is right to say that Miss Julie still has relevance today and is a powerful piece.

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Carol Twinch

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