Miss Julie Review
Swedish writer August Strindberg’s 1888 drama about the taboo of sex between the upper and lower classes has lost none of its impact in the ostensibly classless 21st century in the hands of Vagabond Productions and under the direction of Scottish BAFTA Award-winner, Andrew Dallmeyer.
The action takes place in a mansion house on Midsummer Night, a traditional time of the celebration of innocence in Sweden. The servants are dancing in the barn to fiddle music in the background while the butler/valet Jean (Bart Vanlaere) and his betrothed Kirsten are in the kitchen discussing what a piece of work the young lady of the house, Miss Julie (Louise Seyffert) is. To prove the point, the said madam appears and insists on Jean dancing with her. Her stepping out of her role of command to play the plebian is the start of the disastrous events that follow.
Julie enjoys playing with fire as long as she is in command and she likes to think she can straddle both worlds, having been brought up to be ‘half woman, half man’ but convention does not accommodate her liberated posturing. She and Jean play cat and mouse as the dynamics shift after sex, making for a cruel entanglement between them as gender roles overtake class ones and the hunter becomes the hunted. Their impossible relationship takes place in a world where animals are closer to the aristocracy than peasants and the play uses a fine metaphor of her Ladyship’s dog being put down for mating with a mongrel.
This intense, old-fashioned drama, an upstairs-downstairs with a passion, is an exposé of hypocrisy; a small tour de force that rips down any veneer of respectability in the upper classes. Despite its slow start it built to a fine strength that was thoroughly absorbing with fierce performances from the two main actors and a steadying moral presence in this eternal triangle of the character Kirstin.
August 13-18, 11.20 & August 20-25 12.20