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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 16, July 12, 1976.

Miss Julie written by August Strinberg

Miss Julie written by August Strinberg.

Strindberg wrote over 50 plays in the course of his mauling life, but this naturalistic piece (1888), and a couple of others, are the only ones you hear much of nowadays. But thank god for 'Miss Julie'. It is brief and fiery.

In a naturalistic play, the audience 'looks in' on some real people alive in the workaday world Kate Jason Smith (designer) has the audience arranged in tiers on two sides of the stage, as if the walls have been folded back to sit on, and you are now within the Count's kitchen. Kate does not mickey mouse the stage with a lot of junk, and consequently her set does not obscure the actors.

Sherril Cooper plays Miss Julie, the Count's daughter, who tries to cross the border line between aristocracy and working class, but becomes fatally caught in no man's land. Jean the footman (John Callen) is a horrific mixture of sex and class hatred. Both Miss Julie and Jean attempt to resort to being just a couple of human beings (instead of lady and footman) but thier flirting is conducted always awkwardly from within the armour of their opposing classes, with the constant fear that the Count will suddenly call Jean on the speaking tube. The end of the play is so close to that of "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" that you can't help thinking the film must be based on this play.

It is a bitter piece where Cooper and Callen convincingly portray two people in a fight to the death, two people whom Oscar Wilde would have called "closer than friends, enemies locked". It's refreshing after the usual spiritual distance you get in theatre.

Miss Julie is on at Downstage for six nights only, at 8.15pm., July 19 - 24. It takes 90 minutes, $1.50 and I'd walk a long way to see it.

- Martin Doyle

Drawing of a bakery