“I have to get down but I don’t have the courage to jump”
Miss Julie is the third iteration of the Faction rep season at the New Diorama, though there’s been a bit of a gap for me between seeing this and the brilliant first two –Twelfth Night and Mary Stuart. And I’m not sure if it was the gap, my feelings that night or perhaps the company stretching themselves just a little bit too far, but I did not take to Strindberg’s play half as much as I did the others.
Part of it came from the feeling that this was more of an afterthought than an integral part of the rep season – it seems an odd choice for the company to choose with an ensemble at work as the play is a three-hander at heart. Miss Julie is a Count’s daughter but rather than attend the formal ball being put on by her father, she opts to go to the party being held by the servants where she embarks on a dangerous flirtation with footman Jean.
And with it being a three-hander, the rest of the ensemble play the various revellers who are mainly engaged in the making of sound effects to accompany the mimed actions of the actors. So much of Faction’s work has been clever and innovative and there’s no doubting that these are endlessly inventive in their scope and creation. But it is hard to shake the feeling that it’s not really fully integrated into the action, indeed it is often quite a distraction from the action onstage.
Having seen the company working twice before, I was most keen to see Leonie Hill take on a lead role as she was twice scene-stealingly excellent, but something was a little amiss as Miss Julie. There’s no real sense of her distinctness from the serving classes or the kind of range that she suggested she was more than capable of. Chemistry with Cary Crankson’s Jean was somehow lacking too, no hidden depth s emerging from his performance to suggest why he has such a pull, and Kate Sawyer’s Kristen, the cook who also has a connection to Jean, likewise failed to live up to her earlier work.
It was ultimately impossible for me to try and ascertain the merits of this production in and of itself, the connections to the previous two shows weighed too prominently in my mind. But I’m going to play the blogger card and remind that these are as much my personal reactions to the shows I see as much as ‘reviews’ per se. Regardless though, The Faction have marked themselves out as a company to watch for the future in terms of their ambitious reach and I’m also glad that I’ve now made it to the New Diorama as it is a theatre that has long been on my list of places to one day visit.