Art & Design


Re-imagining Miss Julie

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Entering the Owl and the Pussy Cat, a terrace house turned art gallery come theatre space in Richmond, I clocked the rows of faded plastic bucket chairs reminiscent of an 80’s school-room performance and tripped on a power cable as I walked across the ‘stage’ into the bar (read kitchen). As I squeezed past a performer in period costume (who was filling up a prop bucket with water from the kitchen sink) I ordered a glass of wine and thought “right, should will be interesting.”

The 5pound Theatre is a new ensemble group with the ambition to produce work “that speaks to us about the truth of human experience”. They’ve done just that with the Australian premiere of Craig Lucas’s adaptation of August Strindberg’s provocative play, Miss Julie.

Strindberg’s heightened tale of class, lust, deceit and power, played out on a torrid midsummer’s eve, has been thoughtfully adapted by Craig Lucas to provide an accessible re-telling of Strindberg’s seminal play that is still judiciously faithful to the original.

Miss Julie tells the story of a man-servant, Jean, driven as much by his lust and covetousness of his Lady and her life of privilege as much as he is by his resentment. Miss Julie, for her part, looking for a midsummer playmate in her presumably guileless servant, discovers that class and power are not one and the same. She is as much trapped and oppressed by her position as Jean is by his.

The unsanctioned consummation between Jean and Miss Julie and the violence, manipulation and power play that follows is compelling and uneasy to witness because, true to the ensemble’s aim, it reveals “a truth of human experience” and suffice it to say, it’s an ugly one – survivalism, the fight for ascendency and our potential for treachery.

5Pound’s three hander is beautifully directed and performed, aside from, for mine, an overly shrill performance by Jacinta Yelland as Miss Julie, with a standout performance by Adrian Dean as the venomous, manipulative yet ultimately duty-bound Jean.

The beautifully Spartan but thoughtful design by Giuseppe Mauceri is spot on – and the sex act which is the catalyst for the intrigue and violence that ensues, is cleverly, if a touch melodramatically, staged with DIY strobe lighting effect.

All in all, 5Pound Theatre’s modest but accomplished production of Miss Julie is a triumph of limitation as an impetus for creativity, and of simply letting the great performances and drama shine. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Miss Julie is playing at the Owl and The Pussycat until May 28th. Get there early to have a glass of wine in the kitchen/bar behind the stage and to get a good seat – viewing from the back isn’t great.

Miss Julie plays Wed May 25 to Saturday May 28
Doors Open 7.30pm for an 8.00pm performance
34 Swan St, Richmond

Tickets $15 conc/$20 full at the door

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