About Miss Julie
  • By Pete Shaw
  • |
  • 10th Jul 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★

Strindberg’s classic 19th Century upstairs-downstairs play Miss Julie dealing with social mores is transported to a post-World War I England in which the class system was under increasing pressure and the women’s suffrage movement on the rise. In this setting Miss Julie makes even more sense than the original.

In this setting Miss Julie makes even more sense than the original.

Our three protagonists are the eponymous Miss Julie (Sophie Linfield), daughter of the unseen lord of the manor who flirts with butler John (Jonathan Sidgwick), a man who stood shoulder to shoulder with his betters in the trenches and has a taste for equality. John gives as good flirt as he get though engaged to Christine (Suzanne Shaw) the cook who has joined Miss Julie on women’s rights rallies opening up a different dynamic in their relationship.

This Julian Fellows approach to the script really breathes life into the story. Character motivation has so much more clarity as to why John would be so willing to address the lady of the house in such a manner and also why she would be so reckless as to risk her father’s anger so easily. But this is still the 1920s, and there are lines a Lady just can’t cross, bringing us to the ultimately tragic ending.

Sidgwick and Linfield play the power struggle well, though I felt at times Linfield could have done more with the light and shade of the character. She’s almost too limp at times when she needs to be authorative. Sidgwick’s butler is cocksure, seeing Miss Julie as an easy way out of a life in service; uncaring of his finacée who sleeps under the same roof. Shaw’s performance as that cheated spouse to be is terrific – going on a journey from the meek girl in the kitchen to the only one with a seemingly level head as the scheme unravels.

Trotting along at fair lick, Miss Julie comes in at just 80 minutes. But in that short space of time they pack a whole lot in. Fans of the play will find new colour here, and those fresh to it will like the Downton style. 

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Set against the decadent hedonism of the roaring twenties, an era of jazz, gin and social upheaval, ‘About Miss Julie’ is based in London, 1923, on the night Labour took power for the first time….

The Great War is finally over, the men have returned from the front and the women from the factories, life is returning to normal. Longing for excitement and fun, socialite Miss Julie is throwing a mid-summer party for her coterie of ‘bright young things’, while her father is away. As the evening unfolds her curiosity for life ’below stairs’ and her playful flirtation with her father’s butler leads to a dangerous unraveling of her psyche.

Butler John, a man carrying his own scars from the trenches and with ambition beyond his means, now desires to be part of the upstairs household. His loyal fiancée, Christine, has also been changed by the war. A determined member of the suffragette movement, she too has her own agenda for a brighter future and will battle anything which may prevent her rise in society. As the evening unfolds, what promised to be a night of fun and frolics is consumed by a dark, forbidden journey into unbridled lust, betrayal and despair.

This is a brand new adaptation of Strindberg's classic tale and after 9 critically acclaimed performances on the London Fringe (Etcetera Theatre and Camden People’s Theatre); the In Residence Theatre Company is delighted to have transferred the production for a longer London run at the King’s Head Theatre, Islington.

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