August Strindberg, adapted by Rob Johnston
Hyde Festival Theatre Company
Korova Arts & Cafe Bar, Preston
From 25 October 2013 to 26 October 2013
Review by David Upton
The 1950s is currently the place to be seen as far as a lot of contemporary TV drama is concerned, and it certainly suits this revision of a classic play as elegantly as the central character’s A-line dress.
Indeed playwright Rob Johnston’s adaptation and setting for the August Strindberg original works a treat on several levels, in a production from the Hyde Festival Theatre company.
In the tiny upstairs theatre space of this Preston city centre venue, the almost claustrophobic intimacy borders on voyeurism as we witness Miss Julie’s journey towards disaster.
The post-war period setting gives an added relevance to the changes in class consciousness at the heart of the story, and makes a plausible battleground for the play’s conflict between sexual passion and social position.
And in three terrific performances from a cast of rising regional theatre stars, the production achieves a power that deserves to put it on much bigger stages.
Director and designer Peter Wright certainly knows how to gauge a dramatic pause between characters to a decimal point. It’s all neatly detailed throughout though, down to a set design that fully conveys the play’s below-stairs setting.
And without taking too many liberties, this adaptation does liberate some of the mordant humour of the story.
Susie Milne, in the title role, strikes the right level of intensity as a woman prepared to use her position to seduce a servant. As the object of that desire, John (Adam Urey) plays his own power game with a brooding control, while Kate Mitchell, as the maidservant Christine, bustles about them self-righteously.
At a point where dreams, passion and sense collide, this was as intense a production as you might expect to see anywhere. A class act in every sense.