Hope Mill Theatre is one of those artistic establishments that are just too good to be true. Just off the beaten track, a hidden treasure for true theatre enthusiasts to find and rave on about for eternity. Their program often resonates with the audience and become firm favourites with those that extravagantly indulge in a good old fashioned stage production. Their latest offering is another sure fire hit, teaming up with Elysium Theatre Company and Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, they are reviving the August Strindberg’s classic tale of Miss Julie.
Strindberg’s play was written in 1888 and like all those classic 19th century stories seems to be riven with themes of sex and class and how the two invariably rarely mix. Jake Murray, director and co-founder of Elysium, has cleverly adapted Strindberg’s tale by moving it to the North East rather than the demure settings of Sweden. Yet the crux of the story remains the same. One Midsummer night in an old manor house where servants and masters are equal, resulting in the unbridled alluring attraction between Miss Julie and Head Butler, John, to be explored to the sorry end.
Murray focuses on these class wars, which in this period setting is a much easier thing to do, and at times allowing those differences to continually prick away at the audience’s conscious, resulting in an intoxicating mix of tension and drama.
It is interesting though that more often than not whenever class is put under the microscope, that it should always be with themes that are often relevant to the past than the present. It is easier to be more discriminatory if we see such issues looking back rather than to look around us.
The themes though are as relevant today as they were back in Strindberg’s era – and what’s more his story of this simmering tense filled relationships between Miss Julie, John and his fiancee Christine are senastonally brought to the boil in an epic portrayal of love and infidelities.
Indeed, they are commanding performances from all three leads. In the title role of Miss Julie is actress Alice Frankham, who gives a virtuoso performance as the troubled and conflicted heroine. Playing John is fellow Elysium co-founder, Danny Solomon, in a measured disciplined showing that slowly concludes in a crescendo as the play reaches its scintillating end. Both actors will be familiar to Manchester audiences in past Elysium productions as they starred in the much acclaimed Jesus Hopped the A Train last year at HOME. Playing alongside them in the role of Christine, is actress Lois Mackie, who proves to be an excellent foil to both Frankham and Solomon.
Verdict: A tour de force in performances from all three main actors in this classic tale of sex and class. Alice Frankham sizzles in the title character, whilst Danny Solomon provides a breathtaking assured performance as the equally tortured butler.