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After Miss Julie

First Published 22 March 2012, Last Updated 27 March 2012

Last night After Miss Julie kicked off the Young Vic’s Classics For A New Climate season. In keeping with the theatre’s aim to reduce the amount of energy used in the staging of a show, on arrival I was presented with a reusable wooden ticket and a programme made of recycled paper.

The eco-friendly evening’s action takes place on the night of the Labour party’s 1945 landslide election victory in the servants’ kitchen of the country mansion owned by Miss Julie’s father. The set is a fitting representation of the era and employs space and height in a unique way, reflecting the class structure which is such a dominant theme in Patrick Marber’s play. You certainly wouldn’t have known that this striking set was created using recycled materials and parts of previous productions.

Although they both sport dresses made from reinvented clothing and locally sourced fabrics, Natalie Dormer’s posh and patronising Miss Julie is a stark contrast to the plain Christine (Polly Frame) who is resolutely dedicated to the household chores that dominate her life. Torn between the two women, John, chauffeur to Miss Julie’s father, is both content with his unofficial fiancé yet craves the beautiful Miss Julie and her higher social standing.

A deeply disturbed character, Miss Julie is trapped in a world of contradictions. As an aristocrat with socialist ideals, who was taught never to be ruled by a man yet craves to be dominated in fiery moments of masochistic passion, Miss Julie is like the caged bird that accompanies her, albeit momentarily, on the stage.

Dormer is the perfect Miss Julie with her impeccable accent and seductive personality. Her erratic behaviour and passionate mood swings, which take over the stage, can’t have been comfortable for the front row of the audience, who were so close to the action they must have felt party to the sordid affair.

I daresay many of them regretted their position even further when it came to the untimely death of one of the play’s minor characters, a scene which provoked outrage among the audience. As each stunned face turned to another with an expression that said “Did that really just happen?”, I reassured myself that it must have been a brilliantly executed illusion.

However, this is something that you need to decide for yourself, as Marber’s dark and tragic play is definitely a must-see…unless you’re an animal lover.

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