Tag Archives: August Strindberg

Miss Julie
★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

Miss Julie

Miss Julie

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 30th April 2019

★★★

 

“Strindberg still has an incredible amount to say to modern audiences”

 

Having loved Creditors the previous night, I was very excited to experience Miss Julie – the most famous of August Strindberg’s plays – which is running on alternating nights at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Despite the trademark qualities of the writer being fully present, here they didn’t feel as tightly honed as in Creditors, resulting in a production that felt lost at times.

Originally written in 1888 and adapted by Howard Brenton based on a translation from Agnes Broomé, Miss Julie focuses on the relationship between the upper class titular character (Charlotte Hamblin) and her servant Jean (James Sheldon), as the pair use their status and seductiveness against each other in an ever shifting scuffle for power over one another. The play constructs an engaging commentary on the trappings of the class system at either end of the spectrum, and the ways in which love and sex can exist outside of that system, and it’s a credit to both Brenton and Strindberg that a lot of the arguments presented don’t feel stale, instead capturing a sense of modernity and relevance to the still-prevalent class oppression in our society.

However, other aspects of Miss Julie have not aged so well. The play was first conceived at a time when the likes of Ibsen and Chekhov had made naturalist theatre a new phenomenon, and so the play at times feels like it’s trying a little too hard to be the most naturalistic, at the expense of delivering a focused plot. Extended sequences in which Jean’s fiancée Kristin (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) cooks or waits for the other characters to return are dreary, and a huge detriment to the pace of the narrative. Additionally, after a blistering middle that is dripping with tension and psychological game-playing, the final section feels unsure of how to resolve its plot, and features the characters repeatedly threatening to do something then changing their mind. Consequently, when the actual resolution comes around, it fails to land with any weight as the audience had been conditioned not to trust the solutions the script presented.

These shortcomings are greatly atoned for with the performances, with mature and sensitive direction from Tom Littler. The fierce and flirtatious chemistry between Sheldon and Hamblin is tectonic as she toys with him, and the slow unveiling of his deeply embittered psyche is gripping. Hamblin’s performance later becomes a little over-wrought, as some speeches feel like they’re all being played at maximum distress at all times and as a result lack variety, but it provides an interesting contrast with Myer-Bennett’s grounded portrayal, and by and large the cast show a total mastery over the text, bringing humanity and idiosyncrasy to the forefront at every opportunity.

Miss Julie is in some ways very messy, and yet it was also hugely engrossing, which has made abundantly clear that even if it’s not being said in the most effective way, Strindberg still has an incredible amount to say to modern audiences.

 

Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Robert Workman

 


Miss Julie

Jermyn Street Theatre until 1st June

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | June 2018
Hymn to Love | ★★★ | July 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | April 2019

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Creditors
★★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

Creditors

Creditors

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 29th April 2019

★★★★

 

“the chemistry between all three of the actors is totally delectable”

 

Poor August Strindberg. Despite being just as instrumental to the rise of naturalist drama, the Swedish writer has always played second fiddle to his contemporary Henrik Ibsen, and is often relegated to the footnotes of theatre history. Luckily, Howard Brenton is on hand to provide adaptations of some of Strindberg’s best work at the Jermyn Street Theatre, that seek to remind audiences that his writing was just as seminal as that of A Doll’s House or Hedda Gabler.

Creditors, initially written in 1888 ostensibly centres on Adolf (James Sheldon), a painter and sculptor whose anxieties about his new wife Tekla’s (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) faithfulness towards him are exacerbated by an intellectual new friend (David Sturzaker) he’s made. I use the word ‘ostensibly’, because as the plot develops, each character gets their turn in the spotlight that focuses on their motivations and desires. It’s an uncommon structural choice but it works exceptionally well in creating empathy on all sides – a necessity considering the thematic heft of the material, dealing with ideas of faith, love, art, and entitlement in a mature and thoughtful way.

Brenton’s adaptation, based on a translation from Agnes Broomé, crackles with dramatic electricity, that conveys the central questions of the play in smart ways while also facilitating emotionally charged character-driven moments. This is helped in no small part by Tom Littler’s direction and Louie Whitemore’s design, which confidently allow a lot of stillness from the actors to let the script speak for itself, and sets a stellar balance of delivering laughs while also consistently ramping up the tension. The performances, too, are utterly magnetic as the chemistry between all three of the actors is totally delectable. Sheldon and Myer-Bennett in particular share a scene that is oozing with nuance and subtext as the pair play secret agendas against each other, and the dynamic between the two was grippingly unpredictable.

Creditors is not a flawless play – the first third lacks the same creativity and cleverness of the other two, and certain plot points are somewhat predictable, but by and large, the team behind this adaptation have crafted a nigh-on irrefutable argument for Strindberg’s work to remain at the forefront of the pantheon of writers that pioneered drama as we know it today. The play is running on alternating nights with Miss Julie, featuring the same cast and creatives, and I for one cannot wait to return to the Jermyn Street Theatre tomorrow and continue falling in love with this prolific writer’s oft-neglected oeuvre.

 

Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Robert Day

 


Creditors

Jermyn Street Theatre until 1st June

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Dog Beneath the Skin | ★★★ | March 2018
Tonight at 8.30 | ★★★★★ | April 2018
Tomorrow at Noon | ★★★★ | May 2018
Stitchers | ★★★½ | June 2018
The Play About my Dad | ★★★★ | June 2018
Hymn to Love | ★★★ | July 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com