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About Miss Julie (King's Head)

Suzanne Shaw stars in this new adaptation of Strindberg's classic

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Suzanne Shaw

The knives are out - quite literally - in this languid adaptation of Strindberg's 1888 play Miss Julie.

Chefs' knives dangle around a naked light bulb in the otherwise realistic and sparse 'downstairs' kitchen, scene of an afterparty not normally shared with the servants.

But it's a dangerously flirtatious afterparty for two - Julie and her father's butler John.

Instead of a 19th century Swedish battle of the sexes, About Miss Julie is set in the fallout of World War One and (limited) votes granted for women. Against this both lovers' prejudices are shown up by the moral axis of the play, maid Christine.

Suzanne Shaw, diminutive, cropped blonde bob, brings steel and fearsome blue eyes to her role, a suffragette in maid's clothing (it's worlds away from her Hearsay pop beginning - but not so far from her acclaimed run as Chicago's Roxy.)

Tipsy and wild as the bored and confused aristo, Sophie Linfield's booze-heavy eyes rake her butler, Yorkshireman John, unhappy with his low status. Jonathan Sidgwick, who also penned the adaptation, flips agilely from poetic smooth-talker to rougher outbursts.

The trio pull off some well-crafted moments of tautness and gasps of black humour, and it's a decent first foray into theatre for BAFTA nominated film director Raf Santana.

But in a Downton age all-too-familiar with upstairs/downstairs intrigue, the darker streaks could be made sharper, the forbidden touches more illicit.

About Miss Julie continues at the King's Head until 26 July 2014