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Review: Julie at Newcastle Northern Stage

By Zinnie Harris
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Saturday 18th June 2016.

Julie is a powerful drama that explores power, relationships and love. Rebecca Frecknall’s direction drives the action with energy and determination. The end result is a fascinating study into behaviour and acceptability.

Photo: Richard Lakos for The Other Richard
The show takes place in Northern Stage’s intimate Stage 2 venue. The flexibility of the space is taken advantage of in order to produce the show in traverse. In the centre of the room is the large slab of a scullery table and a huge sink. Above these are the pipes, chains and bells that one associates with the servants working area in a large house in the 19th century. It isn’t dissimilar to Cragside in the respect. Madeleine Girling’s design had a feel of Peter Greenaway’s film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.

Photo: Richard Lakos for The Other Richard
At the start Christine, the cook, is chopping away. At first, aggressively at normal speed, then in slow motion. Her fiancĂ©, the Butler, John returns from the village dance which has been arranged by the striking mill workers. He is concerned that the Lord’s daughter, Julie, has gone along too. It is Julie’s father who, as the mill’s owner, is in dispute with the strikers. Perhaps the workers will turn nasty as they are losing money due to the strike?

Photo: Richard Lakos for The Other Richard
The Lord is away as he is meeting with the unions. John decides to open and share a bottle of wine. This loosens tongues and so conversation moves on to other gossip about the bosses’ daughter, Julie.  Her misfortune appears to be delightful for the servants.

Julie herself then returns. Her confidence and sense of entitlement is clear. She may be the same age as John but she is the lady of the house and he is reminded of the fact.

Photo: Richard Lakos for The Other Richard
The story moves on and explores both relationships in this triangle of young people and the assumed power hold between them.  The show runs for 90 minutes without an interval – a decision which should be applauded as it helps build the tension until the end.

Photo: Richard Lakos  for The Other Richard
Julie features a wonderful young cast whose captivating performances are paramount to the success of the tale. They allow the tension to build up. The relationships between the working couple and their bosses’ daughter seems entirely plausible.

Photo: Richard Lakos for The Other Richard
Rona Morison plays the cook Christine, who is tired of running to her master’s bell. John has the confidence that one expects in a butler thanks to Michael Grady-Hall’s charisma. Playing the complex role of the daughter who apparently has everything to live for is a challenging one but Pearl Chanda really pulls it off. Despite her apparent expectations of those downstairs, Pearl ensures that it is possible to still sympathise which her character.

Photo: Richard Lakos  for The Other Richard
Josh Pharo and Nick Williams have conceived some great lighting and sound design which takes advantage of the traverse setting.

Photo: Richard Lakos  for The Other Richard
Zinnie Harris has, by updating August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, produced a script that can topple Catherine Cookson’s status as the writer of the nation’s favourite kitchen sink drama.  In particular the comment about condensing a 30 year marriage into one night was most striking.

Photo: Richard Lakos  for The Other Richard
Julie is a fine show that opens a door to problems of relationships. The show has fabulous performances from a tight cast that feel believable. Stunning staging help make this a fascinating and provocative, yet charming production.

Photo: Richard Lakos  for The Other Richard
This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Recommended Age: 16+

PLEASE NOTE: This performance contains full female nudity.
Running time: 90 mins
Tickets: £14.50 / £12 concessions
Post-show Discussion: Wed 15 June

British Sign Language performanceSigned by Faye Alvi - Fri 17 Jun, 7.30pm

For full details or to book tickets online visit  or call the box office on 0191 230 5151.

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