June 26, 2013

By Matthew Champ

Hopegrown Productions presents Around Miss Julie, a play about a group of actors who come together to rehearse and perform a pulpy, purple-prose adaptation of Miss Julie with the “guidance” of a young director who feels that she has something to prove. Coming in hot from Montreal Fringe, Around Miss Julie garnered two award nominations for Best English Theatre Performance & the Beyond the Mountain Award. Is Around Miss Julie worth the buzz?

First things first, Around Miss Julie is an adaptation of an adaptation of August Strindberg’s classic play Miss Julie, so it would help if you had a prior knowledge of Miss Julie upon heading into this show; however, it isn’t necessary. In Grade 11 drama class, oh so many moons ago, I had to do an in depth character study of Miss Julie and an artist profile on August Strindberg, so I was very excited to see how Around Miss Julie would play out, let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed. And neither was my wife, who came along to see the show and had to no prior knowledge as to the content of Miss Julie.

Right off the top the four actors in this show are phenomenal. They have great chemistry together and a profound knowledge of not only the source material, but the material that they are presenting. Their characters are over-the-top sometimes but it’s played for well-deserved laughs.

To summarize the story of Miss Julie briefly, a rich, upper-class woman (named Julie), lusts for Jean, a manservant of Miss Julie’s father (The Count). Jean is betrothed to Kristin, the cook, but gives into Miss Julie’s lust and plays her against herself, in one part out of lust himself, and another out of retribution for the classicism that she directs towards the servants.

We see this plot being played out multiple times throughout Around Miss Julie, and it seems that every character gets their own special moment to be this original Miss Julie, despite who their characters actually are. The script is just brilliant. It’s witty. It’s hilarious. It really makes a fairly straightforward naturalistic drama on class, love and lust pop with renewed freshness and vigour.

My only little problem, and it’s tiny at best, is that the characters are sometimes so in character that it’s a hard time differentiating from when they are acting in the play within the play, from just their characters in the actual play.

But all in all Around Miss Julie is to die for. The last five minutes alone have been the most entertaining five minutes I’ve had in a theatre in a long time. I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard, especially, without giving away spoilers, how the cast twists the ending of Miss Julie to create a moment of pure genius.

I missed this show during my Montreal Fringe run, and I regret it, as if I had seen it then I would have still made the effort to come out and see it again at Ottawa Fringe.

Hopegrown Productions — 2013 — Around Miss Julie