Theatrically speaking, is there anywhere like south-east London at present? From Waterloo Bridge to Greenwich, there are now ten different venues, offering varying degrees of theatrical fare. Amazing!
So I went with high hopes for Stonecrabs' Miss Julie at the Greenwich Playhouse, situated in the `forecourt' of the local station. Initial impressions were favourable. The dusty theatre I'd visited many moons ago turned out to have been completely revamped and repainted. The adjacent pub seems smart and efficient. The augurs looked set fair.
Alas, they wgoere unfulfilled. For while Stonecrabs have been steadily acquiring a fine reputation for themselves under director Franko Figueiredo (their last production Mishima's Sotoba Komachi and the Damask Drum earned a Critics’ Choice selection), Miss Julie turns out to be a disappointment, albeit a creditable one.
Miss Julie, arguably Strindberg's most famous signature play, is a hard nut to crack. Many have fallen in the attempt. What seems so alive and relevant to our ears – class and sexual warfare, power games, a touch of masochism, a rich girl's dalliance and not least, confusion from social engineering with her upbringing – proves on stage remarkably elusive. Even Patrick Marber's admired 2003 revision, After Miss Julie, with Kelly Reilly's iconic Donmar performance, failed to sufficiently crack the class codes.
Figueiredo, in his own adaptation, gives us some striking naturalistic detail and imagery. There’s a long dark room dominated by a single dining table and, at one end, the single most utilised prop of the evening, a washbasin at which Antony Jardine's proud manservant Jean and Abigail Hubbert's Christine, his cook-fiancee, fastidiously try to wash away the grime of the everyday (and their guilt?).
In this respect at least, the sense of a rigid social order prevails. Wearing a starched pinny, Hubbert in particular catches the strict inner discipline of Scandinavian religious and social propriety. Jardine, too, makes a plausible case for a man caught between attraction and ambition, trapped by birth and social caste.
But elsewhere, Figueiredo fails to create a sufficiently dynamic mix of time or inhibiting social forces. He would have done better running a 90-minute piece without an interval.
His Miss Julie (Davies Grey), looking magnificent in scarlet, corseted satin (designer Lu Firth deserves all-round congratulations for the look of the production), gives us little more than `little girl' victim. Hard to believe anything like turbulence beats in her breast from having been brought up by emancipated parents with disastrous emotional and psychological consequences. The `action' between Jean and Miss Julie is never really joined.
- Carole Woddis