Open Space takes Miss Julie in a new direction

Those familiar with Strindberg’s play, might be surprised by how much of it has remained intact in Patrick Marber’s updated version. Marber’s abiding message, by implication, is that nothing much changed in the sixty years between the original version and the post war setting of his iteration. The difference, of course, is that Strindberg was writing about modern characters living in an age of transition, whereas Marber was looking back from the nineties of Cool Britannia. Twenty five on, and Marber’s play is arguably of its time, as much as Strindberg’s.

Given the complexity of those layers, it was fascinating to see the direction David Green chose to take the play. Emma Martin had her moments of hysteria, but for the most part her wild mood swings seemed motivated by coquettish mischievousness. David Blood’s John brought to mind the cool headed stoicism of Ishiguro’s Mr Stevens – a mile away from the youthful swagger of Johnny Lee Miller or Phil Daniels in previous productions. Mia Chadwick ploughed her own furrow too, investing Christine with both quiet dignity and righteous indignation. Bear in mind that in that BBC outing, Kathy Burke played the part, in stark contrast to Geraldine Somerville’s Julie. In Open Space’s production, the line between the characters, and their purpose in the drama, is altogether more ambivalent, and arguably more interesting. To my mind, the tone was closer to the acidic ferocity of Tennessee Williams’s Brick and Maggie.

As always with Open Space, the play was simply, but effectively, staged, and was complemented by subtle yet fitting sound from Chris Martin. It zipped along, sometimes at breakneck speed, giving the audience little time to easily side with one character or another – arguably more in line with Strindberg’s naturism that Marber’s update.