Star rating – 6/10
I haven’t been to the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle under Lyme for years, and in these testing times for the arts in general, and for so called ‘provincial’ theatre (as they like to refer to it in London anyway) in particular, I really wanted to love this production by the London Classic Theatre company.
‘After Miss Julie’ is a play by Patrick Marber which develops the nineteenth century play ‘Miss Julie’ by August Strindberg, and transposes it to an English country house on the eve of the election victory for the 1945 Labour Government. It is an intense three handed piece, which seeks to explore how class and social boundaries were being challenged. And to be positive the acting was first rate. Helen Barford begins the drama with what must surely be the longest solo performance whilst the audience are entering the theatre and finding their seats that I have ever seen. She certainly knows how to polish a glass. She plays Christine, the cook for the family, whose boyfriend John is the chauffeur. They were prevented from forging ahead with their wedding plans due to the war, or so Christine says. But as the action unfolds, John, impressively played by Andy Dowbiggin, and his roving eye tell a slightly different story.
The third character is Miss Julie, Kathryn Ritchie, who is fragile, shrill, and neurotic from the outset – possibly a touch too on the edge for the duration of her performance to be truly believable. She is shattered after a love that went wrong, and John is on hand to console, not to say seduce her. He has his eye on the main chance, and is prepared to risk all for the promise of a fortune and new life in New York.
Needless to say the plan does not come off. John is exposed for the bounder that he is, and Julie is left even more shattered than before. The play does contain moments of real tension, but these are not sustained for long enough. It’s a shame as the performances were great. The play, or at least possibly this production of it, was just not strong enough to live up to them and carry them through convincingly enough.