If you do a quick Internet search for Miss Julie, you’ll find that the play is often described as a theatrical “classic,” a “masterpiece”, and one of the “greats.”
Yet for all this praise, we very rarely get the chance to experience August Strindberg 19th-century Swedish drama in this part of the world, possibly because, in the same breath, it is also referred to as a “controversial” work, which still has the power to ruffle a few feathers today.
As such, Fluellen Theatre Production’s decision to stage a major new production of this erotically-charged tragedy, in a new version from the pen of Francis Hardy, was a welcome surprise.
Directed by Peter Richards, the story can be summed up quite neatly as a ill-fated tale of class and lust, in which the privileged title character and her lowly manservant let their passions get the better of them. But this belies the subtleties and complexities of the drama, which shine through in a relentless 90-minute (no interval) performance in which our sympathies bounce back and forth between the increasingly desperate couple.
Perfectly suited to Swansea Grand Theatre’s Arts Wing’s intimate setting, where the audience are perched liked voyeurs overseeing the claustrophobic action, extra rows of seats were added within touching distance of the protagonists for a bird’s-eye view of their lives unravelling.
With a commanding performance from Huw Novelli as Jean, and Danica Swinton as the Count’s confused daughter, it retains the air of controversy which surrounded the original, and still packs a punch more than 100 years after it premièred.
Image by John Fry
Main image: Huw Novelli and Danica Swinton in Miss Julie