Etcetera Theatre 26 February – 19 March. Reviewed By Claire Roderick
August Strindberg’s claustrophobic tale of illicit passion and class divide is a perfect choice for this intimate theatre, allowing the audience to share in the feeling of being “trapped” below stairs in designer Carla Goodman’s stunningly evocative kitchen set.
It is Midsummer’s Eve and as the master of the house is absent, the servants are celebrating raucously, along with Miss Julie, the master’s wayward daughter. When Julie follows valet Jean to the kitchen, she unleashes passions, resentments and a struggle for power that leads to tragedy. Although the characters’ morals and choices now seem archaic, the ever growing class divide between rich and poor keeps this play relevant, and Strindberg’s revolutionary tendencies still strike a chord today. Who doesn’t want to strive for a better life for themselves and their family?
Laura Greenwood is remarkable as Miss Julie – beginning as a breathless, arrogant madam and unravelling throughout the play to end as a frightened, desperate child. When she emerges, physically and emotionally dishevelled, from Jean’s bedroom – her near silent portrayal of self-disgust and horror is the stand-out moment of the night. As Jean, Charlie Dorfman just didn’t hit the right tone for me. He is a fine actor and, once I’d accepted his interesting accent, he showed glimpses of the overbearing, bitter and troubled soul, but mostly came across as a petulant child. Jean is an unlikeable character anyway, but Dorfman’s portrayal made me doubt that Miss Julie would risk everything for this man. Jean’s moments of verbal brutality were more of a petty tantrum when compared to the female characters’ emotional outbursts. Danielle Henry played the tricky character of Kristin with great soul. The quiet tears as she listened to Julie’s plans were beautiful, showing the strength, heart and dignity of this seemingly docile and accepting character.
This is a classy production of a great play, marking a promising debut for Buckland Theatre Company.