By Sharon Magdalene and image by Sistic
Stirring up tension way before the play begins with its soft but spine-chilling consonance, the general mood of the hall switches to sombre, as the actors trudge in, Mies Julie, which at no point of time softens its ferocity, seized our attention — all 90 minutes of it, with its violence, gore and emotions.
Internationally acclaimed playwright and director, Yael Farber took Strindberg’s late 19th century play of gender and class taboos and set it against the backdrop of the apartheid in South Africa, creating her own rip-roaring risqué version of it. Adorned with stylised choreography and symbolic elements inconspicuously painting the play’s hard-hitting message of race, gender and class prejudice, the adaptation of Mies Julie highlights current societal stereotypes of our attitudes and confronts the audience head on.
In the Mies Julie variation, the characters are switched up with leads like Christine acting as Jean’s mother, and Julie – played by Hilda Cronje – demonstrating immense strength and vulnerability. Capturing the essence of the play through Julie’s struggle of being being both a woman and a powerful aristocratic member in an illiberal household, the play also oozes provocative sensuality across the stage as the Julie dances and flexes her toned limbs.
The play quickens its pace further the moment she gives in to the passionate longing and willingly submits sexually to her father’s personal servant, Jean. Consequently, suffering the disgrace of consummating with a mere servant, Julie struggles and realises the mockery and shame, and is prepared to give up her estate to run away with Jean.
To further spotlight the morality issues and triviality of class segregation, the play uses blood as an unspoken powerful symbol. With scenarios like Julie mixing her blood with an animal’s blood to blur the lines of authority, as well as symbolically stripping herself of class and honour, you can be assured the rest of the play is as profound and deep as Farber intended to portray. Chilling and riveting, the dramatic performances will leave an impact regardless of how prepared you are.