Miss Julie at the Jermyn Street Theatre received a 4.3-star average pro score, with two fives. Fiona Mountford (ES) thought “Strindberg’s warhorse … done with monotonous regularity” but added “never before have I seen such urgency and conviction that these few hours on a topsy-turvy Midsummer’s Eve in late 19th century Sweden really are a matter of life or death”. Libby Purves (TheatreCat) admitted to being reduced to “nervous collapse” by “this always alarming 1888 play”. She praised a “new, spare, fluent adaptation” which Mountford found “confident and earthy”. Clare Brennan (Observer) agreed the piece “remains riveting” suggesting this production “shows why”. Michael Billington (Guardian) saw both Howard Brenton’s new version and Tom Littler’s “very classy production” heighten “Strindberg’s vision of sexual relationships as constantly poised between love and hate”.
He admired “the right note of intimate realism” and Mountford found the initial “smell of something frying on the stove” one of the “many delights” of a production Purves found “particularly and deliciously unnerving … admirably unafraid to start leisurely, almost lazy” before “the pace rises and tragic energy swells, baleful and tense”. She found it free of “gimmicky updating” and Billington praised “Strindberg played with absolute fidelity”. Brennan suggested “The production, keeping the period setting, highlights the interplay between what is evanescent (time; place – elegantly evoked in Louie Whitemore’s design) and what endures”.
Mountford thought “All three performances superlative” with Charlotte Hamblin “a whirligig of febrile intensity as she captures Miss Julie’s spinning, frantic flirtation and capitulation”. Purves thought her “magnificent… seemingly blithe with Sloaney entitlement” and Billington noted “just the right mix of hauteur, coquettishness and frenzy”.
Mountford saw James Sheldon create “a vivid suggestion of the composed Jean’s ambition and confidence”. Billington said he “reveals both the arrogance and aspirations of the lowly valet”. Purves, describing a character with “the fastidious pomposity of an upper servant who dreads being back amid the ploughmen” saw Sheldon bring “an edge of florid, handsome coarseness, the resentful brute slyly peeping out of the smooth exterior even early on”. Billington also saw Kristin “all too often played as a domestic frump… endowed by Izabella Urbanowicz with a proper awareness of her own attractiveness”.
Brennan concluded: “Finely balanced, well-wrought, emotionally charged performances make the play as real and sensational now as ever” and Billington agreed its “power … lies in the resentful passion and ferocity displayed by Hamblin and Sheldon”. Purves felt it “like spending ninety minutes watching a clear, delicate polished piece of fine glass shiver, creak ominously, crack and finally shatter all over you” as it “holds you gripped in pity and terror, the angst of a bygone age rattling and echoing down the years with perennial truth”. Mountford declared “this razor-sharp dissection of class, money and the (im)possibility of social mobility… An unexpected treat of the highest order”.
Runs to 2 Dec 2017, with some tickets still available from Jermyn Street’s box office at time of writing.
And for another reinvigorated classic, check out our no-booking-fee prices for A Woman of No Importance, which start at £19.50.