By Trish West
Around Miss Julie is an adaptation of an adaptation of August Strindberg’s classic play Miss Julie. Having had no prior knowledge of this classic, I wasn’t sure how much of the humor or story line I would catch. As the play progressed, I knew I didn’t have to worry, as the Playwright Harry Standjofski has set this original play up in a way that by the end you have a pretty good Coles Notes version of Miss Julie….with a slight twist before the curtain closes.
The play within a play weaves into the other in such a way that it keeps the audience on their toes – trying to figure out what is going on as we witness how life can imitate art. Often it is difficult to differentiate between what is the character’s reality and what is found within a script and this keeps things interesting. The actors manage to make the switch back and forth, smoothly with great timing, providing some great laughs along the way. By their final performance, you are rewarded as you then see how the pieces finally come together.
Around Miss Julie starts off with three actors Lyle (Berlin), Donna (Huebner) and Ilona (Megarry) who are auditioning for a role for “Julie in a Snowstorm” directed by a sweet but clueless director Julie (Cummings). For anyone who has been through the audition process or been involved in show that has everyone wondering ‘when do we get a set?” will relate to the humor and sad truths found within the opening scene. My favorite was watching Lyle help Donna run lines and her frustration trying to remember them…yup I’ve been there!
The three women successfully bring their own backstory and unique dynamics to the play, providing the audience with three very different and wonderful female characters to watch. This also provides the lone male (Graham Berlin) some great moments while interacting with each of the women. Together the four actors on stage bring high energy, great emotion and moments of truth – taking what could be seen simply as a fun comedy and instead creating something relatable: the desire to be loved and the difficulties that come with it; the desire to be part of something that you can stand behind and the determination needed to make that happen; that sometimes the ending doesn’t always have to be what the writer has envisioned and for Homegrown productions, art can sometimes imitate life.
The set is simple but catches your eye, a creative pile of furniture off to the side where pieces are taken as needed to build the set around the actors on stage. Aside from a single board, pieces are cleverly sourced from each venue Homegrown is set to perform in, a perfect setup for Fringe. London is their third stop on a summer tour visiting festivals in Montreal, Ottawa, Burlington and then across the sea to Edinburgh.
If you get a chance to catch this performance, do so. It is an opportunity to celebrate alongside these recent (and almost) graduates of Concordia University in this opportunity to do what they love and at the same time, presenting a play that each can proudly stand behind.
You can follow their tour at www.hopegrown.ca
Best of luck with the remainder of your tour!
3 1/2 out of 4 Stars