My innate bias against translations which opt for the nobler-than-usual title (no matter how justified in terms of period authenticity the change from Miss Julie may be) was swept away by Confederate Spirits' vibrant, charged production, which falters only in its unnecessary inclusion of a dance entr'acte.
Eivor Martinus's translation is at once more free-flowing and more sexually charged, closer to reproducing the mystical and erotic ferments in which Strindberg's work is so often steeped. Setting the action implicitly in the Ireland of the Ascendancy (domestics with brogues, fiddle and bodhrán music, even though the songs are still sung in Swedish) may have been prompted by Dan Mullane's native accent, but is more unobtrusively successful than Caribbean or Raj adaptations I've seen – the transgression is of class alone in Julie's dalliance with her father's servant.
Mullane is an impressive, assured Jean; his dreams of attaining commercial and class elevation are founded on quiet, sure pride rather than conceit. Jayne Boniface as Julie begins in coquettishness – all eyelids, lips and gently moving hips – and ends too distressed to look anyone in the eye; Boniface may give a little too much for a 60-seat studio, but her instincts and tone are impeccable. And Selina Griffiths doesn't allow scullery maid Kristin to degenerate into the dumb plot-device she usually is. The company and production may have originated as a showcase for Boniface and Mullane, but on this showing they deserve it.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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