Kelly Reilly as Miss Julie
Where: West End
26 November 2003 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews In a recent interview, playwright/adaptor Patrick Marber stated simply of that "it's a play about a fuck". Specifically, as in the Strindberg classic upon which it is based, it's about one that transcends class and social barriers, as Miss Julie, daughter of the lord of the manor where the play is set, goes 'below stairs' to the kitchen where she flirts, and then goes further, with her father's chauffeur John, while his fiancé, a maid of the household, looks on. Meanwhile, a society party is in full swing upstairs, from whence the sound of big band jazz is seeping through. After Miss Julie
This version, first written for a 1995 BBC TV production, and now receiving its stage premiere at the Donmar Warehouse in a broodingly moody production by artistic director
Michael Grandage, is according to Marber, "30 percent me, 70 percent Strindberg." Actually, he left out a majority percentage for Pinter's influence, which feels pervasive here in the pregnant pauses, dominating silences, loaded transactions, power games, menacing exchanges and highly charged atmosphere that prevails throughout.
The result is a highly seductive play about seduction that is also not a million miles away from a previous Donmar hit,
, with its merry-go-round of sexual encounters that likewise revolved around people from different social worlds colliding in and out of bed (and was also, coincidentally, a gloss by a modern playwright, The Blue Room David Hare, on a European classic by Schnitzler).
cuts deeper than that superficial affair, exerting a modern, vice-like grip in its tale of transgressive sexual desires, set here against the backdrop of the post-Second World War Labour Party win that's ushering in a new social order. After Miss Julie
Three superb young actors fuel the play with a simmering sexuality. As the dangerously unstable Miss Julie,
Kelly Reilly alternates powerfully between poise and panic, and if she eventually becomes irritating, that's more the fault of the character's fault than the actress. As the object of her desire, and the reciprocated passion of his, Richard Coyle is darkly and handsomely persuasive. Best of all, Helen Baxendale equips Christine - in the smallest role of the maid and partner to John - with a steely, no-nonsense practicality.
Played out in one long act on the wide expanse of
Bunny Christie's kitchen set and lit by Neil Austin to gloomy perfection, the evening has a brittle, bruising intensity that is as restless as it is relentless.
Mark Shenton Related Content
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