by August Strindberg new version by Rebecca Lenkiewicz/by Peter Shaffer.

Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 9 August 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.45pm.
Audio-described 25 July, 26 July 2.45pm.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 July.

Contrasting plays of characters stumbling in various sorts of dark.
After nearly 49 years this double-bill returns almost to the place where the National Theatre first gave it. Then, Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy was the newcomer, commissioned to fill-out an evening with August Strindberg’s Miss Julie (if the modern fashion for shorter evenings had prevailed, it might not have been written). Now it’s the star of the show overall.

In 1965, the pair played in the recently-built Festival Theatre, with Derek Jacobi as nervous aspirant artist Brindsley, Maggie Smith as his insistent girl-friend Clea and Albert Finney as finicky antiques-collecting neighbour Harold. Despite its cord-coiled land-lines and London Electricity Board, and less happily, its gay, deaf and funny-foreigner stereotype, it goes beyond period piece to claim classic status.

Shaffer ingeniously re-invented a scene from Chinese theatre, where swordsmen hunt each other supposedly in pitch-black, the thrills and fun coming from the near-misses as they prowl the room, effectively sightless.

He employs a power-cut, allowing an opening where we sit in the dark while the characters seemingly move around in full light, and a state of half-light when a match or lighter is struck, as dark becomes more necessary than light. In place of swordsmanship, there’s Brindsley’s desperate attempt to return Harold’s furniture when the neighbour returns.

Jamie Glover’s cast play this, including Brindsley’s attempt to mollify his fiancée’s militaristic father while coping with an old-flame’s return, with deft farcical seriousness, avoiding the drop in energy some productions show towards the end. Paul Ready is hilarious as Brindsley copes with each new crisis, Jonathan Coy judicious in his bombast as the Colonel, while Robyn Addison and Rosalie Craig encapsulate highish society and bohemian female youth.

And, a tremendous bonus, there’s Marcia Warren as the elderly female neighbour who discovers alcohol in the dark. Warren is the semi-secret jewel among actors of her generation, her ability to give comic shape to every aspect of a word, sentence or glance is theatrical treasure at its finest.

Though a new “version” of Strindberg, Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s Miss Julie already seems mannered in its terseness. But Glover’s cast provide a forceful northern quality, upfront and brisk.

Miss Julie:
Kristin: Emma Handy.
Jean: Shaun Evans.
Miss Julie: Rosalie Craig.
Farmer: Samuel Dutton.
Farm Workers: Joe James, Steven Jeram, Sarah Martin, Fiona Miller, Daisy Mouatt, Jed Saunders.

Black Comedy:
Brindsley Miller: Paul Ready.
Carol Melkett: Robyn Addison.
Miss Furnival: Marcia Warren.
Colonel Melkett: Jonathan Coy.
Harold Gorrringe: Shaun Evans.
Clea: Rosalie Craig.
Schuppanzigh: Mike Grady.
George Bamberger: Samuel Dutton.

Director: Jamie Glover.
Designer: Andrew D Edwards.
Lighting: James Whiteside.
Sound: Peter Rice.
Music: Simon Allen.
Movement/Fight director: Kate Waters.
Additional movement (Miss Julie): Imogen Knight.
Dialect coach: Kay Welch.

2014-07-25 11:13:34

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