27th Sep 2012 12:35pm | By Louise Kingsley
Usually played out within the claustrophobic confines of the kitchen, Strindberg’s 1888 three-hander is opened out and brought up to date in Frédéric Fisbach’s surtitled French production.
Vast translucent panels span the stage revealing Juliette Binoche’s Julie, dressed in a glittering gold-sequined Lanvin dress, letting her hair down and going wild with her father’s servants on midsummer’s eve as the slightly muffled sound of Blondie thuds dimly out across the auditorium.
Recently jilted, she’s emotional and dangerously out of control – as the valet Jean is swift to report back to his unofficial fiancée (the cook Kristin), still hard at work as the rest of the household celebrates in the Count’s absence.
Not that that makes him immune to Julie’s advances and, as night turns to morning and the partygoers (and someone dressed as a white rabbit – why?) slip away, a tempestuous, verbally abusive power struggle ensues as they face the consequences of this forbidden mismatch between the classes.
Binoche (volatile, fragile, both repulsed by and attracted to her conquest) and Nicolas Bouchaud (ambitious, arrogant, yet still with a servant’s deferential deportment) make a rather older than usual pairing.
But this matters less than the fact that the production, stripped of context (and hence the prevailing social boundaries of Strindberg’s time) removes the main reason for their post-coital crisis.
As a result, it’s Bénédicte Cerruti’s naturalistic, church-going Kristin who impresses most in this stylish but ultimately unmoving production.
Barbican, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS
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Until 29th September