Foul Play
Adelaide Botanic Gardens - Noel Lothian Hall
Until 14 Oct 2017

Review by Anthony Vawser

The stated aims of Foul Play as a theatre company are highly laudable: to give voice to female artists and female perspectives from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Their newest venture is the latest re-imagining of August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie”; other adaptations to attempt transplanting the action to a setting outside the playwright’s original time and place include Patrick Marber’s “After Miss Julie”.

In past productions, this reviewer has experienced difficulty relating to, and engaging with, this particular Strindberg text, but whatever doubts one may have about “Miss Julie” as a piece of writing, director Yasmin Gurreeboo’s staging of Holly Brindley’s script is vivacious and electric from the word ‘go’. Design elements – set, sound, lighting, costumes – are all of a polished standard that services the story and does not call undue attention to itself.

The four performers have an individually striking and powerful presence on stage, while also displaying a keen chemistry with each other. Lucia Van Sebille captures the heedless physicality and ‘bursting-to-break-away’ feeling of so many in their late teen years, while Emma Beech gives a subtly touching portrayal of the experienced, wiser Christine. Nick Bennett offers an admirably complex and intriguing characterisation as John, and Doug Mowbray nails the quiet arrogance and obnoxiousness of his character Tom.

Despite this production’s undeniable accomplishments and pleasures, one’s engagement with the characters on an emotional level tends to ebb and flow; Brindley and Van Sebille have jointly made Julie into a most vivid protagonist, but she tends to be slightly tiresome company after a while, and Tom even more so. Nevertheless, “Julie” concludes on a haunting note that will linger for a long time, which makes this production easily recommendable.