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THEATRE REVIEW: Miss Julie, Vanilla Productions, Belvoir St Downstairs (Sydney)

Dark, gripping and intense, this production of Strindberg's Miss Julie, directed by Vladislavs Nastavshevs, is given a powerhouse performance by Vanilla Productions.
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Dark, gripping and intense, this production of Strindberg’s Miss Julie, directed by Vladislavs Nastavshevs, is given a powerhouse performance by Vanilla Productions.

The tiny Downstairs space is dominated by a giant swinging wooden beam, which has most of the props (e.g. wine glasses, an electric kettle , plates etc) on it. The cast are constantly shifting the props, balancing and ducking around the beam, which ends up becoming rather distracting and annoying . The beam rather overdoes the allegorical symbolism in the play – representing as it does Julie’s father – and the shifts of lust, status and power. Another obvious use of symbolism is the lightbulb as the bird in the birdcage. However the lighting in general – by Nicholas Higgins – is marvellously textured.

The themes of class separation – who is servant, who is master or mistress – and the relationship between the sexes dominate this play.

Dashingly handsome Jean (Laurence Breuls), one of Miss Julie’s servants, has a towering, magnetic, surly stage presence . He is happy to succumb to Julie’s attentions while dreaming of being bourgeois and respectable and opening his own hotel.

With her elegantly refined, extremely beautiful face, Katie Fitchett is luminous as Julie, skilfully revealing the various layers of lust and desire that cut across class barriers.
Julie Moore as Christine is tired, angry and primly respectable – fighting against becoming a paid slave and attempting to cling to the dubious comforts of her faith.

Jean’s fantasies of rising above his class were of less importance to Strindberg than plotting the catastrophe of Julie’s descent and downfall. It is the psychological and class conflict as well as this work’s ability to heighten feelings of foreboding and unease through illustrations of mundane domesticity that make this a fabulous work .

A young, impassioned cast sets the play alight.

Season Closed

Lynne Lancaster
About the Author
Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.
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