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Theatre Review: Mies Julie is a potent mix of race, class and sex set in South Africa

Published on Aug 28, 2014 3:29 PM
 
The Singapore Repertory Theatre presents Mies Julie. When wars on race, class and sexuality have been fought, with some concessions won and boundaries erased, perhaps the greatest remaining scandal, and tragedy, is for people to be paralysed by their newfound freedom. - PHOTO: SINGAPORE REPERTORY THEATRE

When wars on race, class and sexuality have been fought, with some concessions won and boundaries erased, perhaps the greatest remaining scandal, and tragedy, is for people to be paralysed by their newfound freedom.

This twisted paradox is what shocks a 19th-century play, Miss Julie, by Swedish playwright August Strindberg back to life on stage in a pulsating and tightly wound adaptation by South African writer-director Yael Farber.

In the original Miss Julie, the titular character, daughter of an aristocrat, enters into a sexual relationship with her married manservant, offending taboos of class, gender and sexuality in the late 1800s.

Farber updates Strindberg's work by transposing it from 19th century Europe to contemporary South Africa 20 years after the apartheid ended in 1994 on Freedom Day, the country's first democratic election. And she sets it in the semi-desert region of Karoo where social-political conservatism prevails as a way of life even after two decades. In using South Africa's tumultuous history, fraught with tensions over race, power, land and affiliations as a backdrop, the play regains its provocative edge.

 
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