Review: More erratic than erotic adaptation
Theatre: After Miss Julie, Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Miss Julie is a young woman who is dangerously bored and alone having been recently jilted by her officer beau. She is vulnerable, she is proud, she is innocent and unable to comprehend her own lustful desire. She requires only the slightest influence to fully unravel.
She is the titular central character of August Strindberg's 1888 play, which was adapted into a 1995 BBC television drama by Patrick Marber. And now Marber has adapted his own adaptation for this production by Prime Cut, moving the drama to VE Day in 1945 at a Big House in Fermanagh, where class divide is festering and resentment simmers barely under the surface.
This drama is set in the scullery, a truly beautiful design by Sarah Bacon, with wonderful attention to period detail, the bells that the master summons his obsequious servant on, the hanging pheasants waiting to be plucked for celebration feast.
Marber has kept the three elements of the original cast: young mistress of the house Miss Julie (Lisa Dwyer Hogg), her father's chauffeur and valet John (Ciaran McMeniman) and his long-suffering betrothed, the cook Christine (Pauline Hutton). He has stayed reasonably respectful to the original text, though allowing us empathise more with Miss Julie as she allows herself be taken in a night of furtive carnality.
However, there is a sense of contrivance throughout and Marber has reshaped the ending, complicating it unnecessarily.
Directed by Emma Jordan, there are strong performances from Dwyer Hogg as the disintegrating Julie and Hutton, who creates the one character you can sympathise with. But McMenamin has a harder battle connecting with John's constantly seesawing emotions.
Marber has shown himself to be expert at psychological unraveling, but it does not fully work here. This should crackle with sexual tension, but instead there is a general flatness and so many 'I love you, I hate you' fluctuations that by the end it is hard to believe that there is any true emotion. Mania needs something real underlying it that you can believe in.