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Strindberg Double Bill

Creditors – & – Miss Julie – ★★★★
By August Strindberg in new versions by Howard Brenton. A co-production with Theatre by the Lake and Jermyn Street Theatre
venue: Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST

Creditors. Photo: Robert Day


This pair of 90-minute three-handers in repertory, both dating from 1888, form a Strindberg double bill. A quartet of actors play six roles. I saw the two shows back to back: a matinee of Creditorsfollowed by Miss Julie in the evening.

The most striking thing is how well and how naturalistically these four actors – under Tom Littler’s direction – play off each other in Jermyn Street Theatre’s intimate performance space.

It will be a while, for example, before I forget David Sturzaker as Gustaf in Creditors watching with feigned impassivity as Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Tekla howls impotently as her husband (James Sheldon) dies on the floor. Sturzaker’s Gustaf has deliberately destroyed both the others. Now he stands unnaturally still. Only the blinking of his eyes hints at his thoughts. It’s a fine performance from an excellent actor. It’s unusual too to see an actor mopping real tears at curtain call but it’s what Myer-Bennett has to do here. Her Tekla is brittle, amusing, risk-taking and, eventually, utterly distraught.

Both plays are co-produced with Theatre by the Lake where they ran earlier this year and this production of Miss Julie, now further developed but only marginally, had a run at Jermyn Street last year. Seeing it again immediately after Creditors places it in a different context.

It is always interesting, for instance, to see actors in two different roles which is what you get here with Sheldon and Myer-Bennett who play Jean and Kristin respectively in the second play. And their versatility and range are a real joy. Sheldon is a vulnerable, easily manipulated, gullible sculptor in Creditors and then the ruthlessly self-interested servant, Jean in Miss Julie. Together these two roles are a huge undertaking but Sheldon meets the challenge head-on with charismatic conviction and lots of colour. Myer Bennett gives us a Kristin who is assured, dignified, affectionate and knowing in great contrast to her earlier Tekla.

Charlotte Hamblin, reviving her Miss Julie role, struts, pouts, weeps and despairs of being trapped in her father’s grand house for ever. She finds all the right capricious, tragic, volatility. Miss Julie certainly is “raving mad” as Jean expresses it at the beginning but that won’t stop him trying to exploit both her troubled sexuality and her status.

The sets – one an early 20th Century hotel room and the other, of course, a kitchen – by Louie Whitemore are aptly detailed for both including some real cooking (steam and smell) in Miss Julie. And I love those costumes: especially Myer Bennett’s elegant turquoise two piece in Creditors and her church-going outfit in Miss Julie.

These plays, in this format, make vibrant theatre and are well worth catching.

Miss Julie. Photo: Robert Day

 First published by Sardines:
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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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