Monday, July 21, 2014


Chichester Festival Theatre at the Minerva

Peter Shaffer's ingenious farce first saw the dark of day at Chichester, and was originally commissioned as a companion piece to the Strindberg.
They make strange bedfellows, despite tangential resemblances: they both begin in absolute darkness [no running man exit lights, even], matches are struck, a steel razor is used – once as a simile, once as a means of suicide [as also in Amadeus next door].
The superb set [Andrew D Edwards] for Miss Julie has a long table at the centre of the vast kitchen – an iron stove, a high window.
Jamie Glover's fine production uses a new version by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, which makes the dialogue seem as fresh and real as Downton, but with more depth and sincerity.

Excellent performances, too, especially from Shaun Evans as the articulate, intelligent manservant, whose Lawrentian relationship with the young mistress – Rosalie Craig – is thrillingly played out in the intimacy of the Minerva. She is feral, flaky, a “peasant at heart”, but fatally indecisive. Emma Handy is the busy servant Kristin, standing erect and still in adversity, never losing her dignity, always knowing her place.

A complete set change for the Shaffer – a sculptor's pad in the 60s, with the only good furniture “borrowed” from the connoisseur next door.
Some shared casting, though. Craig is the ex set on revenge. Evans, less successfully, is the camp neighbour. [created by Albert Finney, with Ian McKellen in the revival]. I felt that this performance – perfectly adequate, but looking and sounding far too similar to his Jean, took something from the masterful characterization before the interval.
Elsewhere, wonderfully stylish farce from Paul Ready as the nervous Brindsley, Robyn Addison as his idiot deb girlfriend, Jonathan Coy as her bufferish dad – memorable business with the rocking chair – and Marcia Warren as the teetotal spinster neighbour, downing spirits in the dark.
The set pieces and the physical comedy are perfectly executed, especially the steep staircase and the inevitable trapdoor.
In the matinée we saw, the gremlins wanted to make the already unlikely plot even more bizarre - the telephone cord was severed, and a loud report towards the end could well have been the Colonel's service revolver ...

No comments:

Post a Comment