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Review: Fräulein Julie at The Barbican

PUBLISHED: 11:28 01 May 2013 | UPDATED: 11:29 01 May 2013

L to R Tilman Strauss as Jean, Jule Bowe as Kristin. Pic by Stephen Cummiskey.

L to R Tilman Strauss as Jean, Jule Bowe as Kristin. Pic by Stephen Cummiskey.

Archant

The thought of staging something as mind-cripplingly complex as Katie Mitchell's version of Miss Julie is quite terrifying. In fact, in a post-show discussion last night at The Barbican, Mitchell said: "It's a really scary art form. It makes me feel quite sick making and watching it."

Without giving too much away, the cause of her nausea is the extreme precariousness of the show which has so many co-dependent components that if any single one should fail, the whole thing would implode - a victim of its own cleverness.

It suspends the audience in a state of unease, commanding respect with its intricacy.

Cameras and projection mirror the themes of the play- suspicion, betrayal and perspective in microscopic detail.

We feel the pain of Kristin, her feelings illuminated for us as we witness simultaneously the murky goings on of her double-crossers.

A collaboration with the Schaubühne theatre in Berlin, Mitchell says Strindberg’s Fräulein Julie would not have been her choice of text except the project-makers wanted a ‘big title’.

Perhaps this initial reluctance spurred her into making something more brilliant than even she could have imagined- her own tribute to the playwright’s radicalism.

But her transformation of the play is a feast for the eyes, even if it does take a while to adjust to the dreamlike and dark composition before you.

Perhaps it is ironic that while the script has been simplified of sorts, the other aspects of the production have been turned on their head so much that this is barely recognisable as Miss Julie.

The deconstruction is refreshing, exciting and utterly bewitching - an astonishing piece of theatre.

Fräulein Julie runs until May 4 at The Barbican. For tickets see www.barbican.org.uk.

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