Gemma Sharp is not only playing the eponymous character in our upcoming production of Miss Julie but is also the writer behind our new adaptation.
So what is it like to both write and perform in a play like Miss Julie? Gemma explains…
“I have spent the last six months or so gradually becoming acquainted with Miss Julie.
I’ve been reading any possible translation of the play I could get my hands on. That was six in total, plus Patrick Marber’s ‘After Miss Julie’ – not one version alike; each giving me a new insight into our fated heroine; each one making me love her a little more.
I realised that I didn’t want to just take one literal translation and change and tweak it into a more coherent performable script – I wanted to take all these different elements that I found interesting and dramatic and potentially watchable and write a version of my own, still trying to keep to Strindberg’s original plot line. One thing I strove to keep to very strictly was how true-to-life Strindberg’s characters are. They are so changeable, unpredictable and prone to run through a range of emotions in just one line.
So why the 1920’s?
I believe that if you’re going to do a play you do it for a reason, that you feel you have something new to bring to the text. I was drawn to Miss Julie because of the complexities of the two protagonists. As an actor I wanted that challenge, but I wanted to find a new angle for our version of the play. I wanted to bring it forward to a more exciting, more relevant time for our audiences, but due to the main themes in the play it couldn’t be too modern. I needed to find a time where sex before marriage was frowned upon and where a rigid class structure was still a way of life.
Decadence and Decay
From every version I read two words always sprang to mind: decadence and decay. So the twenties immediately sprang to mind. It seemed obvious to me. The first world war had finished, the Suffragette movement was strong, both the sexual and class revolutions were bubbling under the surface and also there were a distinct lack of men at this time.
I’ve found myself listening closely to the script as it is performed by the other actors during rehearsals. Certain things work and certain things don’t so little tweaks and re-writes seem to be constantly on my to-do list. But it is wonderful to hear it read out loud.
Playing Miss Julie
My challenge now is to play our titular character and the fact that I wrote this version doesn’t make it any easier! As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve spent the past six months getting into Miss Julie’s head in one way or another, so I have a very distinct opinion on how she should be played. So if possible I’m being more critical of myself than usual on this one. Those changing thoughts on the line that I mentioned earlier are proving an enormous challenge. There’s always the fear that a performance of such an emotional character can come across as over-dramatic or self-indulgent, but I’m also aware that if I don’t fully commit to how highly strung she is then she risks coming off looking weak.
So me and Miss J are finding our way together. From both page to stage it continues to be a challenge. But if it wasn’t, then what would be the point?”
Miss Julie runs from 15th January to 7th February at venues across Yorkshire. See http://www.hedgepigtheatre.co.uk/miss-julie.php for all details.