Polly Stenham’s updated version of the Strindberg classic Miss Julie doesn’t quite come off despite the best efforts of its central trio of cast (Vanessa Kirby as Julie, Eric Kofi Abrefa as Jean, Thalissa Teixeira as Kristina).
Although the Second World War setting of Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie, which I saw in a television version around twenty years ago, worked well enough, bringing the story right up to date with the privileged white girl getting involved with the chauffeur (even if he’s black, as in this version) would not lead to the catastrophic ending in just one night; in fact no one would blink an eyelid, despite Julie stealing Jean from her only confidante, maid Kristina.
This production suffers from additional scenes set at the party, with dancing and drugging guests, which take up around ten minutes at the start of the play. Much better to get straight into the meat of the play, with the neurotic Julie trying to break out on her birthday, to get away from the path which life has set for her.
Carrie Cracknell directs, and Tom Scutt designs, in a lighted box which only moves following the hard-hitting finale, the only bit which really connects on an emotional level through the whole play. There is little sexual chemistry between Kirby and Abrefa, if anything he seems on the verge of being amused by her, but mainly bored.
The set, a kitchen suite into which cupboards the party-goers disappear, has potential (and reaches it, briefly, in the scene with the little bird), but doesn’t fit the sophisticated claustrophobia the original play requires, and which might have served Julie better in the Dorfman.