The Rose Theatre in Kingston is pulling out all the stops with its ‘Behind Closed Doors’ season: a two-month, two-play repertory that boasts big names like Peter Hall and Jane Asher. But is it enough to get people out of central London?
Miss Julie image by Chris Pearsall
August Strindberg’s Miss Julie is set over one sleepless midsummer's night in 19th century Sweden. As with many Strindberg plays, there is much to irritate and offend. Characters work themselves up into a near-farcical frenzy, and the playwright’s controversial views on women are given air.
Yet the play is a fascinating dissection of class in a time of Marxism and uprising. Daniel Betts is quite extraordinary as Jean, a servant who plays scintillating power games with Miss Julie, the count’s daughter, and dreams of escaping his lot - but falls to pieces the minute his master rings the bell.
The set design is staggeringly beautiful. Every nuance of a kitchen is lovingly laid out, and circumscribed by long, silvery trunks, as if the characters are trapped in some moonlit woodland, filled with magic and madness.
Bedroom Farce also explores sexual politics, but with a much needed lighter touch. The comic timing from the whole cast is superb, but Asher and Nicholas Le Prevost steal the show. Alan Ayckbourn, the writer, is wonderful at probing the banalities of suburban marriage, and he does so with pathos and tenderness.
In fact, Ayckbourn’s humour has dated this somewhat innocent play, being gentle and inoffensive. Hall’s direction sticks faithfully to the original 1977 production - and the play’s themes and execution are neither groundbreaking nor challenging. But as the lights fall on each of the three bedrooms on stage, there is something delightful in seeing how the couples interweave and play off against each other.
You don’t have to see Miss Julie and Bedroom Farce together, and more divides them than unites. But not only will you get a ‘double bill deal’, you will get to fully appreciate the scope of the Rose Theatre, which just keeps on impressing.
Miss Julie and Bedroom Farce is playing at the Rose Theatre until 28 November.