…[Hedgepig Theatre] has done consistently good deeds on the York stage.
They do so again with Miss Julie, and what’s more they are now expanding beyond York, like the Mooted Theatre Co, Belt Up, Six Lips Theatre and the Flanagan Collective before them.
Gemma Sharp has written a new adaptation of Swedish playwright August Strindberg’s revolutionary 1888 tale of lust, power and betrayal, her most significant change being to move it forward to the decadent and debauched Jazz era of the 1920s, while swapping Copenhagen for England.
The Twenties card is not overplayed; there are no direct references although when Curry’s aspirational valet, John, talks of learning French in the war, it resonates anew with thoughts of the First World War trenches.
Alexander King’s incidental music harks back to the era and the sound of the static on a stuck old-fashioned record player is haunting too, but the folk song sung by an off-stage Sharp and Curry could be from another time.
Sharp’s Miss Julie is dressed in elegant Twenties silks by costume designer Julia Smith, and she moves in the poised period manner too, her voice as clipped as a summer’s village cricket square.
Her script, meanwhile, accommodates such lingo as “bloody” but is not tethered to the period, nor does it have a particular sense of English place, although both Curry’s self-improving John and Victoria Delaney, as house cook Christine, his fiancée, have downstairs London accents.
The setting remains the night of the Midsummer revels, heard but never seen as Strindberg’s tale of psychological manipulation, lust and lies plays out in the darkness of the kitchen.
Given the confines of the Leeds Carriageworks Studio space, it does not have the grand size befitting a Count’s house but the claustrophobia well suits the sexual game of chess between Miss Julie and John.
It also adds to there being no hiding place from the cook, the third player in the Freudian battle of the sexes.
Curry is a beady, self-serving John; Sharp’s headstrong Miss Julie is damaged goods, born to decadence, irrational, spoilt, lacking judgement and parental guidance, her performance at its best in the volatile moments; Delaney’s Christine is the seemingly quiet counter, yet she makes the cook deceptively calculating in her motives too.
Three into two won’t go, and the tug of destructive destiny hangs over the Hedgepig production that rightly foregoes an interval in favour of that unbroken tug being all the stronger.
Charles Hutchinson – York Press. Read the full review here>
Miss Julie can next be seen in York Upstage Center Theatre Tues 22nd – Sat 26th Jan 2013 – Book tickets here>