Rehearsing a double bill has been the most interesting and challenging of experiences, says Rosalie Craig.
Rosalie plays the title role in Strindberg’s Miss Julie and then, after the interval, returns as Clea in Shaffer’s Black Comedy which closes the evening.
“I have never done anything like this before, but it is going really well,” Rosalie says. “One day we were rehearsing one play all the way through, and then the next day it might be half a day on one play and then half a day on the other. You just have to get the one out of your head when you are doing the other. But I am sure one day I was performing Black Comedy as if I was still in the Strindberg!”
On another occasion, during a break in Black Comedy rehearsals, she wondered whether she should have a quick look at her Miss Julie script – before telling herself definitely ‘No!’
But the results will be worth it. As she says, Miss Julie is a fascinating play – and one where it is easy to forget now just how shocking it must have been in its day.
Miss Julie is set during the tumultuous hours following a Midsummer Night’s Eve ball. Miss Julie and her father’s handsome valet Jean play provocative and dangerous status games in Strindberg’s exploration of sex, class and power.
“It’s a joy to bring out what must have been shocking about it. It is an amazing play. Every time we work on it, it uncovers itself. You have got this story that in just a few hours ends up in high tragedy, and you are left wondering how you have got to that point. It’s just over a time period of about six hours.
“I actually think that Miss Julie is a lost woman. She is conflicted about how she feels about men and women, partly because of her upbringing. She was brought up as a boy, which was quite confusing for her. Her parents had a very, very strange relationship with her. They wanted a boy, and I don’t think it was uncommon for people to raise girls to have been boys. She also talks about the fact that she was raised almost feral. You look at her and at her upbringing and at her background, and you think ‘Well, obviously you are a bit strange!’ But hopefully the audience might be able to empathise with her in some way. I realise that Miss Julie is not a character that people might necessarily warm to, but we are trying to portray her as somebody that knows what power is, but she is not always in control of her decision-making.”
As for Black Comedy, Rosalie – whose TV credits include Spooks, Miranda, My Family and Other Animals, Casanova and Doctors – doesn’t come on until page 30, which gives her the interval and then some to make the mental change from tragedy to farce.
Speaking mid-rehearsals, she admits it would be interesting to go straight into Black Comedy: “But really I won’t know how I feel until we start doing it. But I am definitely glad I am in both plays. I think it would be quite strange just to be in one and then to be sitting around while everyone else was doing the other.”
Plus you get to enjoy the links amid the contrasts. At one point, in Black Comedy, a line from Miss Julie is echoed quite deliberately: “And that reference in the play feels so bizarre!”
Miss Julie and Black Comedy are in Chichester’s Minerva Theatre from July 4-August 9.