Reviewed by David Smith
Director Geoff Brittain came up with the absorbing notion of presenting these two plays in the Theatre Guild’s October season, coupling them as a double bill on the opening night.
Placing them together on the same programme reinforced the points both playwrights were making about class, gender and power. It also immediately restated the timelessness of both pieces, especially the Strindberg original. While not a replica of the first, the Marber piece reflected its essence.
All three actors had their very strong moments. Miss Julie began in a rather staid, mildly hesitant way, but as the passions and problems rose, all of the actors developed the required intensity. In this piece Rosie Williams was at her best when her character Julie was at her most vulnerable. Likewise, Nick Fagan as Jean produced a more nuanced performance as his personal power grew. Both successfully exploited the irony and contradictions of their situation. Throughout this development, Cheryl Douglas retained Christine’s stoic dignity with admirable steadiness.
After Miss Julie was well-paced and held the audience’s interest throughout, clearly justifying the decision to present both pieces on the one evening. The interest went beyond merely making comparisons of the transposition in place and time of the 1880s original to 1945 England. The same three actors showed their adaptability, concentration and skill in making the change. Again, Cheryl Douglas, this time playing Julie, and Rosie Williams as Christine, the maid, drew out both the strengths and compromised nature of their characters. Nick Fagan, befitting the more modern era, as well as the wider experience of John, had greater authority from early in the play.
This was a very demanding and serious piece of theatre and the Theatre Guild brought credibility to both plays.