Meh. Who needs the West End? Patrick Marber’s psychological sex thriller After Miss Julie opened in Bath last week, and arrives at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford tomorrow, ahead of its West End run.
The pixie-like Helen George stars as the sexy Miss Julie. You know Helen, she’s the one who plays Trixie Franklin in Call the Midwife and who wowed us on the Strictly dance floor last year with hunky pro Aljaz before she was booted out in the quarter-finals. There were tears that night in our house – and it wasn’t only Mr Muddy!
Helen was a bit of a Strictly favourite at Muddy Surrey HQ (of course, I have no idea why Mr Muddy liked her!), so we’re looking forward to seeing her strut her stuff in Marber’s version of the August Strindberg classic Miss Julie. Marber’s play moves things forward in time, from 1888 Sweden to 1940s England, but still follows that upstairs/downstairs love triangle theme. And the word on the street is that as Miss Julie, Helen is brazen, dominant and sexy. Here, in rehearsals, she talks about love, life, drinks in the pub and her dog Charlie.
Ok, first things first, what’s the one thing you couldn’t be without on tour?
I’m touring with my dog Charlie so if I lose him I’ll be scuppered. I also take the script with me of course.
Do you have any pre or post-show rituals?
Post-show I always have a drink in the pub. Pre-show I try to just stay calm and focused. A few years ago I’d say my lines 20 times before I went on stage but you can drive yourself mad dealing with the fear of it when actually you just have to relax beforehand, listen to some music and calm down.
Can you pop to the pub without being recognised?
There are a few times when I am recognised and I always feel very awkward about it because I never know what to say, but a lot of time I can live my life without it happening. It’s mainly Call The Midwife people know from me and also Strictly Come Dancing. Outside London, people are more likely to come up and ask for a photo whereas in London it seems people will notice you and take a sneaky picture. It’s completely different.
Have you kept up the dancing since Strictly?
No, but we are doing a little dance section in this so that’ll be the first time since I did the show.
How would you describe the character of Miss Julie?
She’s a complicated character. This particular take is of someone who is very confused. She witnessed her parents’ destructive and abusive relationship, so she’s quite complicated and damaged. Her father is a labour peer and her mother had socialist ideals and brought her up as a child of nature. She brought her up in boys’ clothes, teaching her about the land and farming, so she’s torn between being the lady of the house and this weird upbringing she had from her mother.
Does she present any challenges for you as an actress?
There’s so much meat to the part. There’s so much substance. There’s so much research to be done. Patrick [Marber] helps so much with his writing; it’s really all there in the script. It gets quite bloody and gory in the middle of a refined play so it’s about finding the links between the horror, the gore, the tragedy and the reality because it’s a very real tale.
What is it about the character that resonates with you?
At some point everyone will have been in a love triangle or could be in one. And they could be either one of these people and play either role within this tale of how these three people work together and the power struggle between them all.
What are the key themes of the play?
One of the main themes is entrapment – like entrapment of gender and the entrapment of class. The two central characters, Julie and John, have this very passionate love affair which is very animalistic but they can never truly be together. John has this wonderful line where he says ‘Men like me can rise like bread but never like cake’ and I think that sums up his role in it.
Were you already familiar with the play?
Absolutely. It’s a classic. I did extracts from this particular adaptation at drama school. When my friend Anthony Banks, who is directing it, asked whether we should do this I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be amazing to revisit it 10 years later with more experience and more life experience. This time round I understand more what she’s talking about whereas when I was 20 I didn’t.
Do you have any plans to do more musical theatre?
It’s what I started off doing and I wouldn’t say no to it, it’s just the right musical hasn’t presented itself yet. Maybe at some point in the future.
‘After Miss Julie’ in on until Sat 4 June, at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Millbrook, Guildford, GU1 3UX. Tel: 01483 44 00 00. Tickets: £23-£34.50. yvonne-arnaud.co.uk