AFTER MISS JULIE
by Patrick Marber.
Young Vic (The Maria) 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 14 April 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.45pm. no performance 6, 9 April.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 March.
Strindberg adaptation given resplendently sympathetic production.
This is a production of ups-and-downs; for the audience anyway, who climb upstairs to enter the Maria auditorium, then go downstairs to floor level, using the steps at the rear of Patrick Burnier’s set. It makes an important point about high and low in August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, one played down in Patrick Marber’s adaptation, which moves the action from 19th-century Sweden to the 1945 British General Election, where the country ousted war-hero Winston Churchill for new, Labour equality.
Strindberg’s aristocratic Julie talks repeatedly of descent and her father’s valet Jean of aspiration. She makes herself socially déclassé by seducing him. When she leaves the sunken-level servants’ kitchen here, John remarks she’s left her bag. No longer obeying the order to take it to her, he stands with it by the stairs, making her crouch to grasp it.
Not only does Julie burst in from above, and run back there whenever she wants, until her final humiliation. When she thoughtlessly demands to dance with John, they’re seen at the election ball above through huge windows, wooden blinds carefully wound open, as the cook Christine, John’s intended partner, works or sleeps below. The hefty winding of those blinds open or shut makes its own point.
Clearly, director Natalie Abrahami brings to Waterloo the imaginative use of space familiar from her work at Notting Hill’s Gate Theatre. And if half a director’s skill is casting the right actors, Abrahami’s completely successful there too. Each performance is spot-on, perfectly-pitched, beyond criticism.
Natalie Dormer’s Julie has a trite insolence behind her heavy make-up and seductively flimsy dress. As her bit of rough, Kieran Bew’s John is smooth, correct in manner to social superiors yet instinctual in sexual command. But the triumphant performance is Polly Frame as the often little-noticed Christine.
Tightly-dressed in her suit for Sunday morning, direct and purposeful in movement, she inhabits the silences important in Abrahami’s production with clear thoughts, skirting the unspoken, dutiful smiles to Julie’s face turning to instinctive disgust when unobserved. Her power lies hugely in controlling her words, making an unusually focused performance in this outstanding production.
John: Kieran Bew.
Julie: Natalie Dormer.
Christine: Polly Frame.
Director: Natalie Abrahami.
Designer: Patrick Burnier.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound: Carolyn Downing.
Musical Arranger/Director: Phil Bateman.
Voice: Emma Woodvine.
Choreographer: Ann Yee.
Fight director: Kev McCurdy.
Assistant director: Rebecca Frecknall.