The Other Palace

JULIE: THE MUSICAL at The Other Palace


“Given the central message of the piece is a celebration of the chaotic and unpolished, Julie: The Musical gets away with a lot”

You have no idea how much I wanted to like this swashbuckling tale of a legendary bisexual opera star from seventeenth century France who knew her way around an epée, and broke hearts from Paris to Marseille.

For the most part, I really did. I loved the cast, and their multi talented musicianship. However, the show picks up the theme of chaos that percolates through Julie D’Aubigny’s life and really runs with it. The language is blue, the narrative is non-linear and regularly interrupted with ‘let me explain’ interludes, there’s a wig reveal, and bit-part characters straight out of telenovelas via RuPaul’s drag race. Look, a lot of this is entertaining, but altogether the effect can send your head spinning.

This is a show that has been iterated over the last four years into a two hour marathon that ducks and weaves through the life of a fascinating historical figure. The real Julie D’Aubigny would be considered a wild child, had she existed in the modern day. The fact she lived over 300 years ago and still was so seemingly unapologetic and adventurous is even more astounding. Naturally, there are many of her experiences the Le Gasp! production team led by writer and performer Abey Bradbury are breathlessly keen to reproduce on stage, but perhaps choosing a few less and keeping the show tighter would have been more effective.

The music suffers slightly from a similar overenthusiasm. The foursome in the cast regularly rotate around electric guitars, percussion, a squeeze box, a bass, ukulele and for Melinda Orengo, a cello. This is certainly impressive, if not anxiety producing as the actors regularly appear to stumble when swapping positions over the drums and guitars, all of which remain on stage throughout. The style of the tracks is largely upbeat and rocky, reminiscent of Six The Musical, occasionally Noah and the Whale, and at one point, Blur, with big vocals in particular from Sam Kearney-Edwardes as Julie. These worked well with harmonies from Bradbury, Zachary Pang and Orengo. I would have liked to see more light and shade within the music, and maybe more of an effort to integrate operatics, which were central to Julie’s life. It felt like a missed opportunity that this was always played as a joke. Only right at the end of the second act is some variety with the pared back and sensitive Breathe Again and Unnormal Lives.

Conor Dye’s direction also doubled down on the theme of chaos; there’s breaking the fourth wall and then there’s pantomime and this felt like it occasionally strayed into the latter with Julie’s overconfident asides. I regularly felt like I was jolted out of the suspense of disbelief, and I certainly wasn’t expecting a cameo from JoJo Siwa. This fed into the interests of the audience (mine included), but felt haphazard. A brief moment of puppetry to represent young Julie was also very effective, and I would have loved more experimentation like this. Unfortunately, there were also a couple of mistakes that were acknowledged on stage. Given the largely informal nature of the show, the first was largely forgivable, especially with some great comic timing and improvisation from the actors. The second, less so.

The stage design (Becky Cox) does well to reflect the unsteady nature of Julie’s life, with multiple broken proscenium arches and half dyed curtains framing different levels. Costumes are similar, featuring fraying and dissymmetry, mixing modern styles and nods to historical corsetry. However, the tech felt a bit haphazard, requiring nods to the booth to get the lighting cues. Sometimes this worked, reminiscent of a rock concert. Sometimes not. Attention was also often drawn to multiple places on stage, and the instrument and vocals were sometimes unbalanced, so I struggled to hear some lines. A key character pops up throughout the timeline, but the transitions were not distinct enough: it wasn’t clear if the actor had changed character, or if there was a moment that the audience needed to note.

Given the central message of the piece is a celebration of the chaotic and unpolished, Julie: The Musical gets away with a lot. It can be enjoyable, especially if you submit to losing control. As a fringe piece, it works well, but given the upgrade to larger theatres, a little more restraint might be needed. Just don’t tell Julie I said that.


JULIE: THE MUSICAL at The Other Palace

Reviewed on 13th June 2024

by Rosie Thomas

Photography by Ben Wilkin




Previously reviewed at this venue:

CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE 90s MUSICAL | ★★★★ | January 2024
A VERY VERY BAD CINDERELLA | ★★★★ | December 2023
TROMPE L’OEIL | ★★★ | September 2023
DOM – THE PLAY | ★★★★ | February 2023
GLORY RIDE | ★★★ | November 2022
MILLENNIALS | ★★★ | July 2022



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