We had the chance to interview Emma Jordan, director of After Miss Julie which starts at the Project Arts Centre next week. You can see the results below.
After Miss Julie – Project Arts Centre – 04 Mar 2016-19 Mar 2016 | € 15 – €20
The original ‘After Miss Julie’ by Patrick Marber was set in an English Country House in 1945. What is the setting for this version?
Our version of After Miss Julie is set in a big house in Co Fermanagh on VE Day in 1945 – so we have changed the location and the date – In the original Marber had set it on the day that Churchill was ousted and Labour got into power – the Lord of the Manor was a Labour Peer. Not surprisingly we were unable to find any examples in our research of that period in Northern Ireland of a Peer who wasn’t conservative and unionist so Patrick reset it to VE Day.
This is an adaptation of an adaptation. How did this reworking come about?
I approached Patrick with the idea to relocate the setting and he was incredibly open and enthusiastic to amending the text. I think that he understood immediately the logic behind the impulse – when you are making work for an Irish audience it seems natural to see how a work might be able to speak to that context and the story of the Big House and culture class in Ireland is such a rich seam to mine.
How much of Strinberg’s original play is left?
Patrick has been very respectful to the original text but what he has done is bring a contemporary aesthetic in that he has pared back the language and perhaps presented a more empathetic presentation of the damaged character of Julie and john.
What do you think setting the piece in Ireland adds to the story?
I think that the Irish setting lends to the extreme isolation of the character of Julie. The ascendant Class when placed on the Northern Border are right at the edges of society and when you were a woman this isolation is further compounded. When doing the research for the play I visited Florence Court and was really struck by the incongruity of this commanding and beautiful house amidst rural Ireland – interestingly the last time the Georgian kitchen operated as a functioning kitchen was in 1952 which highlights the play as a metaphor for the demise of status of the ‘Big House’ in Ireland mirorred in the relationship between the protagonists in After Miss Julie.
The 2014 Colin Farrell movie ‘Miss Julie’ is also based in Fermanagh. Is this just a coincidence?
I didn’t know about the film when I decided this was how I wanted to transport the show to Fermanagh – so I was admittedly a bit disappointed to hear that someone had got there first – but then again it always goes to prove that all art is derivative and there is no such thing as an original idea. Also the movie is set at a very different time period which to my mind makes it a very different interpretation of the play.
This is a play of strong emotions, how difficult is it for the actors?
The play is a huge challenge for the actors as they have to deal with both the depth of the emotions but also how quickly this emotional landscape changes. The places that the actors have to go to onstage means that they need to be very kind to each other offstage – luckily they are a great bunch of artists.
So, what are you working on after ‘After Miss Julie’?
I am having some breathing space which will be welcome as I have done Educating Rita and After Miss Julie back to back and then I’m delighted that we are going to be remounting our production of Stacey Gregg’s Scorch which will be at the Edinburgh Festival and tour in the summer.