I couldn't see why Miss Julie was so highly regarded when I first encountered it. and I still can't. Strindberg was a terrible misogynist, and throwing in a male bastard as well doesn't disguise the fact; but the play still deserves better than this. Michael Meyer's less than vibrant translation is here delivered with a mannered, Rattiganesque self-consciousness throughout; and it's not as if these are "social rôles" that dissolve as the tension heightens – the histrionics are always kept at the forefront. A gorgeously adept design is undermined by this artifice, and by the sometimes comically overemphatic use of Peter Gabriel's Last Temptation score (no gags about crucifying the play, please).
Moreover, it takes more to relocate the play in the Raj than a few judicious "sahib"s scattered around the dialogue; Richmond totally ignores the racial dimension that he has himself inserted. Tracey Childs and Richard Willis struggle gamely to retain some kind of vitality, but ultimately the whole production is as obviously inert as the decapitated greenfinch it includes at one point; it's been directed to death. If you're determined to see a version of Miss Julie and it comes down to a choice between this one and that at the Greenwich... well, this one comes nowhere.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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