Review: MISS JULIE, Park Theatre

Strindberg's classic commentary on social class returns to the stage with a traditional yet explosive production.

By: Jun. 12, 2024
Review: MISS JULIE, Park Theatre
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Review: MISS JULIE, Park Theatre The Midsummer festivities are in full force. In the Count's absence, his household servants dance the night away. His daughter, the same Miss Julie from the title, is wilder than usual. Disappointed by the end of her engagement, she joins the staff to quench her desire for trouble. There, she finds fertile ground in Jean, her father’s valet. Blinded by the freedom of the revels, the two enter a fiery power struggle.

August Strindberg’s 1888 play is a hazy concoction of passion and control, attraction and dominance. We examine the relationship between ambition and social advancement, in an ever-relevant commentary on class divide, entitlement, and submission . 

Max Harrison’s production is a beautiful textbook revival, it leans into the comic side of the text (translated here by Michael Meyer), but accordingly tips into the opposite range of emotional distress. This Miss Julie is funny one second, horrid the immediate next. Playing in the round, the cast circles a large wooden table that gives a perfect idea of their domestic living arrangements. Lilacs might decorate the top, but it remains a practical, pragmatic set-up designed by Kit Hinchcliffe and lit with a soft, unmovable glow by Ben Jacobs. Katie Eldred and Freddie Wise are relentlessly explosive as the contentious pair while the audience is a silent voyeur of their battle.

Review: MISS JULIE, Park Theatre
Freddie Wise and Katie Eldred in Miss Julie

They engage in a magnetic push and pull. Harrison toys with the proximity of the couple’s bodies and their touch, turning their dynamic into an elastic band. They’re planets trapped inside each other’s orbit that crash into one another with clockwork timing. The actors share a sparkling chemistry, even when they’re being utterly brutal. While Eldred’s Julie romanticises a life she’s not ready for (nor truly or ever willing to really embrace), Wise ruthlessly slaps her in the face with a dose of reality. Their social roles constantly change and reverse in a cat-and-mouse race until the master of the house returns.

The modern concern with Jean’s bursts of authority sits side by side with Julie’s obvious entrancement as he regales her with gentlemanly oratory skills. His grand and proud side never falters, with Wise meeting Eldred as her intellectual equal. Charming and well-spoken in spite of his hateful streak, he patronises her, but she quips back. He mocks her, but she goes at him with the same attitude. Her doe eyes cyclically gain a mean glint, until they don’t anymore. Jean manages to get under Julie’s skin with astonishing ease; she doesn’t realise her delusions, but Christine (Adeline Waby) does.

Review: MISS JULIE, Park Theatre
Katie Edlred, Adeline Waby, and Freddie Wise in Miss Julie

The trusty kitchen maid with a level-headed perception of the world drags them both back to real life right before we hear a carriage arrive and a bell ring. It marks the demise of Jean’s bravado and the crowning of Wise’s performance. To say that he crumbles is an understatement. He cries big crocodile tears of despair, frozen on the spot, backed into his servile place once more. As he cowers in fear, Eldred regains her stature after her brief humiliation. She reverts to a raised gaze, brazen and sharp against his now stooped and weeping figure. Order is restored. 

Miss Julie runs at the Park Theatre until 6 July.

Photo credit: Mark Senior


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