‘Miss Julie’ at The Citizens

On Friday night I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of Miss Julie at the Citizens Theatre. A few weeks ago my fiancé and I received a programme of the upcoming plays at the Citizens and my fiancé immediately picked out Miss Julie as a drama he was very keen to see. I think he was initially drawn to the fact that the role of Miss Julie was played by Louise Brealey who plays Molly in the BBC1 drama Sherlock.

Miss Julie, written by August Strindberg in 1888, is a play about the daughter of a wealthy mill owner and her interactions with her father’s servant (Jean) and the servant’s fiancée (Christine).

While Miss Julie’s father is away, the workers at his mill are on strike. Miss Julie has decided to go to a dance that has been organised by the striking workers. Jean, described as the mill owner’s favourite servant, has recently got engaged to the overworked cook, Christine. While Jean recounts the events of his evening to Christine it is impossible not to notice the number of times that Miss Julie’s name crops into the conversation.

The chemistry between Jean and Miss Julie is evident from the moment she appears unannounced in the servants’ quarters requesting Jean accompany her back to the party for a dance. An exhausted Christine cannot compete with the energy of Miss Julie, and soon falls asleep. Meanwhile, Jean and Miss Julie continue to drink and chat back in the servants’ quarters after the workers at the party turn on their boss’s daughter. There is a strange sense of unease as the balance of power shifts between the two characters. First Jean has the upper hand with his tales of Miss Julie’s unpopularity amongst the staff. Then Miss Julie has the power, putting Jean back in his place, reminding him of his status in the world.

After things between Jean and Miss Julie go a bit further, we see them struggle to plan what to do next: stay and face the music or hightail it out of there. Without spoiling the ending for anyone who has not seen the play, things come to a very shocking and dramatic end.

Yet again it was great to spend a night at the Citizens Theatre and to see another packed house.

Miss Julie is currently playing at The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. For more info please visit here http://citz.co.uk/whatson/info/miss_julie/

‘True West’ at The Citizens

True West is a play about two estranged brothers. Austin, the younger brother, is a smartly dressed Hollywood screenwriter trying to make his way in the world. Lee, the dishevelled older brother, is a thief who has spent time living in the desert looking for their father.

The two brothers are reunited for the first time in some years in their mother’s home: she has gone to Alaska on holiday and left Austin house-sitting. Austin is working hard on a new screenplay for which he has arranged a meeting with a producer named Saul. Austin’s concentration is disturbed by this domineering older brother’s continual questioning. There is an uneasy atmosphere in the kitchen as Lee’s menacing line of questioning on the subject of the security at their mother’s house and surrounding properties appears to suggest that he plans to burgle the neighbours’ houses.

In order to get Lee to leave the house, Austin reluctantly lends him his car keys. This allows Austin to meet with the producer without his brother being present. However, before the end of the meeting, Lee reappears in the kitchen with what seems to be a stolen TV. Much to Austin’s horror, Saul and Lee appear to hit it off and have soon arranged a golf date for the next day. Things turn from bad to worse for Austin when we learn that, whilst the producer has indicated that he likes his screenplay, it is indeed an idea by Lee which he is particularly keen on. It is suggested that Austin and Lee should work together to produce the screenplay based on Lee’s idea.

The whole play takes place in the mother’s kitchen/dining room, a large well kept room with late 1970s/early 1980’s decor. Between scenes the curtain comes to a close horizontally, as opposed to vertically, almost making the stage appear as a movie set behind a Hollywood movie screen clapper.

The brothers eventually agree to work together to produce the screenplay. As the second half progresses, every time the curtain opens we see the kitchen fall into deeper disarray as the brothers get drunker and drunker both appearing deeply unhappy with the course of events in the play. As the play draws to an end, we see the two brothers stand face to face as the lights fade and the curtain closes.

 True West is currently playing at The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. For more info please visit here http://citz.co.uk/whatson/info/true_west/

‘Crime and Punishment’ at The Citizens

As we took our seats on Thursday evening for Crime and Punishment, a play based on Dostoyevsky ‘s novel of the same name, there was already much activity on the stage. The ten actors, who took on various roles throughout the play, were already there: chatting, smoking cigarettes and drinking vodka. The scenery was minimal and the large stage was exposed right to the brickwork at the back.

As the play began, a light blanket of smoke covered the stage floor creating a sinister atmosphere. The central character, Raskolnikov or Rodya, is a penniless former student who has become more and more isolated from the rest of society: he has dropped out of university and spends his time closeted away in his small rented apartment. We see him wrestling with the idea of murdering an unscrupulous pawnbroker who preys on the poor and vulnerable in society by charging extortionate interest rates. The pawnbroker’s deviousness presents Raskolnikov with a potential justification for the perpetration of the crime as he expresses his belief that he could put her ill-gotten gains to much more honourable use.

After receiving a sign propelling him to commit the crime, Raskolnikov makes his way to the pawnbroker’s house, believing that her sister will be out for some time and that they will not be disturbed. He follows the pawnbroker through a curtain to her office and it is here that he commits the murder. The ominous atmosphere at this point was exacerbated by the atmospheric music and the red ‘blood’ dramatically splattered across the curtain. Unfortunately, Raskolnikov’s plan begins to fall apart when the pawnbroker’s sister returns unexpectedly. He is faced with little choice but to kill her too.

Following the murders, we see Raskolnikov’s descent into further mental torment. He comes under the radar of Porfiry Petrovich, the lead detective investigating the murders. Petrovich is Raskolnikov’s main antagonist, questioning him and attempting to lure him into confessing to his crimes. The interaction between the two is captivating as the pair engage in a cat and mouse game of wits.

For me, an absolute highlight of the evening was to watch the way in which the actors slipped seamlessly between roles, with those not involved in a particular scene watching on from the outskirts of the stage, voyeurs of the unfolding drama. This was a highly enjoyable play and I would definitely recommend that you go and find out for yourself how the plot unravels!

http://citz.co.uk/whatson/info/crime_and_punishment/

A Night at The Citizens

I love the theatre. Mitchells Roberton kindly afforded me the chance to take my partner to the Citizens Theatre to see two plays by Caryl Churchill. This was my first time at the Citizens in about a year. The reception tonight was warmer than I remember, in part due to the rare appearance of the summer sunshine through the large glass ceiling.

The first play of the evening was entitled Far Away, a story set in a dystopian society, in three parts, each lasting around 15 minutes. Part one began as the large corrugated iron ‘curtain’ opens up to reveal a non-descript kitchen where two characters, an aunt and her niece, were speaking to one another. The atmosphere quickly darkens as the discussion alludes to the young niece’s discovery of her uncle’s apparent involvement in people trafficking. If this has you raising an eyebrow then part two, set in a hat making factory, is unlikely to reassure you. The two milliners in this scene are making hats for an upcoming parade: towards the end of this part there is a procession of anonymous prisoners, wearing the hats we have previously seen being made, walking towards the front of the stage. This scene is made even more sinister by subsequent reference to the ‘burning of the hats with the bodies’: I was left wondering if these prisoners could be the people who were being trafficked in part one. For me, part three was more baffling than the two preceding it. We are taken back to the same kitchen in which part one was set, where the characters speak about the ‘war’ and morality of the world, referring to different aspects of nature, from people to crocodiles to lazy grass. This intriguing play certainly stimulated some discussion during the interval: with almost everyone having different interpretations of what they had just seen.

After the interval, the chance to see Seagulls, a short play written some twenty five years earlier than Far Away. Seagulls, a more linear play, concerned one woman’s brush with the supernatural, a gift she has always had but only recently revealed to the world – her ability to move things with her mind. The play is set as this lady is making a public appearance to showcase her gift before she heads off to Harvard to become involved in scientific research. We see her interacting with her biggest fan, a strange young man. As their discussion ambled through her past, I got an insight into how she felt about her ‘gift’ and we learnt how it is that this power has been revealed to the world. As the story moves on, there is an uncomfortable wait as we see the lady standing in front of the audience attempting to use her abilities to entertain the gathered crowd but, alas, her powers appear to have deserted her.

I will stop here, as I do not want to reveal too much about what happened in the plays  – I would definitely recommend that you go and see them for yourself. Irrespective of what you take away from these plays, both certainly entertained and intrigued me. A thoroughly enjoyable evening!