After Miss Julie by Patrick Marber at Cambridge Arts Theatre
- Credit: ©Nobby Clark Photographer
It’s July 1945 and the night of the Labour landslide. In the kitchen of the house of a Labour peer, the chauffeur picks up a bottle of wine and says: “It’s like Churchill, robust, full-bodied and finished.”
Everything is about to change, Britain has ushered in the only government in its history which will legislate for the good of the people – vested interest was divested and so are the characters in this play.
Miss Julie by August Strindberg was written in 1888 about class. After Miss Julie set in the 1940s by Patrick Marber, is about the relationship between men and women.
No matter how rich her and how lowly him, he is always going to have the upper hand. If he takes her up and discards her, she will be ruined.
Miss Julie, the peer’s emotionally fragile daughter, played in a towering performance by Helen George, comes down into the servants’ basement intent on seducing John the chauffeur.
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This is in front of his fiancée, Christine, whose resilience and wholesome common sense is portrayed immaculately by Amy Cudden. We believe in her, this is a real woman. She might live next door to us. We’d like her to.
John (played by Richard Flood) could be a figment of both women’s imaginations. He will never fulfil the dreams they each project onto him. He can’t and hasn’t any plans to make them happy.
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Sadly, he doesn’t fulfil the audience’s dreams either. I wasn’t convinced by the chemistry between him and either of the women.
Strindberg’s play was written at a time where the social order was regarded as part of nature. Marber’s is set in the 1940s when apparently in order to function a woman must have a man. The transition reflects the same struggles.
This play is so nearly a masterpiece and the performances are edge of seat stuff but Anthony Banks’ direction needs a little more certainty to give the work the grip it deserves.