|Miss Julie | Darlinghurst Theatre Company|
|Written by Jodi McAlister|
|Wednesday, 17 October 2012 09:32|
Cristabel Sved and Kate Box's new version of August Strindberg's classic play Miss Julie is a good play but not a great one. It is engaging, riveting even - there is no place in the seventy minutes of the show that I was bored - but as an audience member I felt somehow outside it, distant: as if there were a wall of glass between me and the show, like I was in the glass box that is such a key part of the production. Some plays are made to be observed: Miss Julie, on the other hand, is made to be felt. It should be gut-wrenching. It should wind you, like being punched. This production, while ably communicating the show to the audience, never took my breath away.
For those unfamiliar with the show, here is a brief précis of the plot: Miss Julie (Kate Box) is the daughter of an aristocrat. One fateful night, she spends time with Jean (James Lugton), her father's faithful butler, who is engaged to household cook Kristen (Sophie Gregg). The night spirals out of control and leaves Miss Julie and Jean cast adrift, unable to return to their old lives but with no idea what their new lives might look like.
There is no question here that Kate Box delivers an absolutely incredible performance. She has been one of the finest, if not the finest, actresses on Sydney's stages this year (anyone who saw her performance as Elma in Food must surely agree). Her Miss Julie has layers upon layers of complexity, at one moment laughing, another crying, another raging, and totally believable through all of them. The script perhaps lets her down towards the end, and Miss Julie's ultimate end really should have been a moment of greater impact, but Box's interpretation of this seminal character is outstanding, and the show is worth seeing for her performance alone. I was less sold on the performance of James Lugton as Jean. His character arc was not as keenly felt as Miss Julie's. Lugton spent a lot of time shouting, and I think this might have ultimately taken away from his performance - it seemed a bit one-note at times. This is not to say that he does not have moments of excellence - for example, Lugton's portrayal of Jean's vulnerability as he shows Miss Julie his plans to build a hotel is heartfelt and heartbreaking - but overall, he paled in comparison to Box.
Director Cristabel Sved has tried a few interesting things here as director, and I'm not sure all of them paid off. While the glass box in which Miss Julie is often encased is a potent metaphor for her sensation of being trapped, and offers a powerful allegory to her poor doomed caged bird, I think it might perhaps have been overused. When Box wheels the box out again at the end of the play, the metaphor had been well and truly exhausted. It definitely works well in other sections, and the opening of the play, when Miss Julie dances wildly in her glass cage as Jean watches, has great impact. Other moments, however - not just moments using the glass box but moments of extended silence - did not work so well. I think there is a lot to like about Sved's direction in this show - she clearly has a great understanding of the character(s) and how they interact - but occasionally, I found the execution a little jarring.
This production of Miss Julie is certainly worth seeing but I don't think it's a defining production of Strindberg's classic play. It's a good show, and certainly a fitting farewell from Darlinghurst Theatre Company to the space they have worked in for so many years, and Kate Box's performance as Miss Julie is extraordinary, but it lacks the emotional bite and explosiveness to make it into a truly great production.
Darlinghurst Theatre Company presents
by August Strindberg
Director Cristabel Sved
Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre - 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point
Dates: 12 October - 11 November 2012
Times: Tues - Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $38 – $33
Bookings: www.darlinghursttheatre.com | (02) 8556 9987
Comments (0)Subscribe to this comment's feed