Performance Review: JULIA Feb 15, 2016

by Amber Candelaria

August Strindberg‘s play “Miss Julie”, written in 1888, is a story of the walls that exist between people. The walls between the young and wealthy Julie and her father’s valet Jean are palpable. Unlike so many upstairs downstairs stories, this story makes no attempt to break down these walls. Misogyny, racism, and classism are fiercely clung to. There's no sympathy, only lethal attempts to dominate. The actions and words between the two main characters, taking place in a single night, illustrate that these wall may appear to move but they can never come down.

This theme is explored beautifully in “JULIA”, a modern interpretation from Brazilian artist Christiane Jatahy. The staged production includes filmed portions and live video which plays with even more walls. The filmed sections show us other characters but keep them at a distance and a camera man follows the actors adding a sense of realism whilst simultaneously exposing the theatricality.

The piece even challenges the 4th wall, in subtle ways at first, then directly as the play spills out into the audience. The actors pull the audience into their arguments, laugh with them, and use them to humiliate each other. And in the end each one makes a solitary effort to reach out to the people watching. But, as with the original text, nothing changes. The play, and the walls that exist between us, remain intact.

Jatahy found a unique and daring ways to breathe life into Strindberg’s material. The motivations of the characters in the original text are complex, and this retelling dives into that complexity with delight. The portrayals are beautiful and painful. The exposing simplicity of the set and use of projected video and live camera pulls the audience in and pushes them out again. “JULIA” is remarkably clever and thoroughly enjoyable.