Adapted to contemporary South Africa, Mies Julie is a challenging and intricate study of power relations, finds Charlotte Rowland
At one point in Mies Julie, John, the black servant of a white Afrikaans family, articulates his claim to the country he is in. “My ancestors live under these stones,” he declares. Julie, daughter of John’s master, points out, “And mine are buried under the trees out there.”
Yael Farber’s decision to take Strindberg’s 1888 play Miss Julie and relocate it in South Africa was inspired. In a play so concerned with power and identity, an investigation of race is certainly warranted and when it also interacts with sex and class, inevitable status struggles permeate the action and dialogue of this production.
Charlotte Rowland notes how little details help the tension to build from the start of the play:
The black workers on this white Afrikaaner-owned farm are marking the [Freedom Day] celebrations with dancing, but there are violent tensions and unrest bubbling below the surface. The master has cut off their electricity and water, to try force black “trespassers” off the land. The family’s dog is pregnant, but she has been impregnated by the servant’s dog, so the bitch must be forced to abort.
The photo from the production is by William Burdett-Coutts and is used with permission.