by Katie Mitchell after Miss Julie by August Strindberg German translation by Maj Zade.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 4 May 2013.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 243 0785.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 April.
Magnificent means to radical ends.
There’s no doubting the strong individuality of Katie Mitchell’s work as a theatre director, even when the processes involved lead to apparently repetitious ends. The first time a stage is broken into angles and images projected onscreen alongside the actors it’s astounding. Each time the idea’s repeated there’s more likelihood it will be asked what it’s all for. The answer here might be just about everything and nothing very significant.
August Strindberg’s revolutionary dissection of sex and class was designed for realistic portrayal in a small space. By an argument irrefutable if unconvincing, Mitchell decides the revolution can only come round again by moving from Realism and into a large theatre.
Yet, it’s really swapping realisms. What the cameras catch, food being sliced or kitchen surfaces cleaned, is real. On film in a cinema, it would be realistic. But the impact on stage is highly artificial.
Yet the cinema conventions bring a new realism as a character’s thoughts are spoken while she works – though the words come from a different actor than the actions.
The character doing all this isn’t one of the two who have things to do in Strindberg’s Miss Julie. The play disappears into the background. Mitchell focuses on Kristin, compliant cook and sort-of fiancée of the valet Jean, a character who the Swedish author sends to sleep for a large part of his play.
Here, she’s central, and watchful – her face, barely detectable in a corner of the stage, is magnified onscreen as she observes through a door, her thoughts search-out a sense of being by listing things that exist – a juniper, loneliness – as they come into her mind. Only her firm Calvinism and part in Strindberg’s action are stripped-away.
It could be justified as revenge on Strindberg’s attack on women, and a comment from a modern, fragmented age of images on a world where Realism meant verbal articulation.
What it means to anyone not knowing Miss Julie might be questioned. For there’s something hermetic about the piece, and a question about the implications of having the piece’s points expressed by complicated, intrusive, even self-proclaiming, technology.
Kristin: Julie Böwe.
Jean: Tilman StrauB.
Julie: Luise Wolfram.
Kristin double: Cathlen Gawlich.
Kristin’s Hands: Stefan Nagel, Luise Wolfram.
Camera: Stefan Kessissoglou, Krzysztof Honowski.
Sound: Laura Sundermann, Stefan Nagel.
’Cello: Chloe Miller.
Directors: Katie Mitchell, Leo Warner.
Designer/Costume: Alex Eales.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Gareth Fry, Adrienne Quartly.
Music: Paul Clark.
Dramaturg: Maja Zade.