R4 Front Row: Greg Doran talks his plans for Stratford and why there won't be any "starry turns" chipping in
Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio March 26 - April 1

After Miss Julie and the budgie murder

After%20Miss%20Julie%20by%20Richard%20Huber%20SmithI don't want to let what will now be know as 'the budgie incident' overshadow what is a very good play but I can't but help but obsess with it. You see something bad happens to a budgie. It's hopping around in its cage. It gets removed from its cage and then, well, it's bloody, is all I'll say.

Now I know no real harm comes to the budgie - although there is no official confirmation of this in the programme, just the name of the company that supplies the birds (it says budgies plural). But where does it go, how does the theatre trickery work so that it is safely stowed for the remainder of the play with some cuttlefish or Trill to keep it happy and quiet?

I've asked the Young Vic and they haven't yet replied. Yes I am that obsessed with it but putting it to one side, the play itself is very good.

It's set just after the end of the second world war in the kitchen of an aristocratic household. It's a time of austerity, rationing still in full force. Labour has just swept into power on a landslide, class barriers are starting to break down and so too the perceived role of women.

Julie (Natalie Dormer), the daughter of 'his Lordship' has had a unconventional upbringing. From what she tells us, her mother was a bohemian who was eventually 'brought into line' by her father who appears to have got embarrassed by her behaviour - presumably the behaviour that first attracted him to her.

We learn from the servants that Julie has recently been jilted after an incident involving a horsewhip in the stable. Left at home with a party in full swing and her father in town she is struggling with her sexuality and status.

She flirts with chauffeur John (Kieran Bew) who is the fiance of Christine (Polly Frame) the housekeeper. She abuses her position and would give Freud plenty to mull over wanting both to dominate and be dominated.

Things come to head when John and Julie spend the night together and are discovered by Christine.

Julie is a fascinating character full of inner turmoil and conflicts, she is cruel and vulnerable. And John is similarly conflicted. At first respectful and mindful of his place he succumbs to his animal instincts which ultimately leads him to his own embarrassed cruelty.

It feels like a mini-war is being re-enacted below stairs in the kitchen, the play positively oozes tension as so much that is familiar is starting to break down and lines are crossed and unfamiliar territory provokes ugly reactions.

All three performances are faultless. Dormer knows just how to move and stand to maximise the flirtation without it feeling forced.

I'm going to give After Miss Julie four and a half stars and if anyone can enlighten me about the budgie, I'd be eternally grateful. It runs in the Maria Space of the Young Vic until April 14.


Natalie Dormer was in the dreadful W.E. which starred the wonderful Andrea Riseborough who was in The Pride with Mr W in New York.