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Adapted from Strindberg’s 1888 “Miss Julie,” Patrick Marber’s version of his Upstairs Downstairs three-hander changes the location from the estate of a Swedish count to an English country house as the Labour party storms to victory in the 1945 election.

The transition works perfectly in Natalie Abrahami’s naturalistic revival, played out, like the original, in the kitchen where the daughter of the house descends to the servant’s quarters to flirt with her father’s chauffeur, John, in front of his fiancée Christine (the cook) whilst the other employees celebrate offstage to the sound of forties music.

What begins as a flirtation soon escalates into a competition across the classes, not only between the two women but also between John and Julie as each vies for the upper hand in a relationship doomed from the start.

Kieran Bew’s hunky John oozes virility, yet is slapped down when Natalie Dormer’s dangerously self-destructive Julie reminds him of his place in the social hierarchy. And, within the restraints imposed on her by her position, Polly Frame’s controlled Christine makes it clear that she’s not prepared to give up without a fight in this provocative and powerful production in which ultimate power still resides with Julie’s unseen father.  

Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 8LZ
Tube: Southwark / Waterloo
Until April 14

- Louise Kingsley


After Miss Julie - theatre review
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