Baxter Theatre Centre, University of Cape Town
Written and directed by Yaël Farber
Based on August Strindberg’s Miss Julie
Music by Daniel and Matthew Pencer, performed by Brydon Bolton and Mark Fransman
With Hilda Cronje, Bongile Mantsai, Thoko Ntshinga and Tandiwe Lungisa
The Octagon until Feb 13
The core mechanism of Apartheid was to keep people apart, in chains if necessary. But now, on Veneen Pas, “Weeping Farm”, the Voortrekker farmer’s daughter, Julie (Hilda Cronje), and her father’s servant, John (Bongile Mantsai), are bound together, by forces they can neither avoid nor control. He is on a chain, kept from the world outside by ancestral ties and indentured servitude; she is in a cage, trapped by her bitter inheritance and new fears. When John says to her, “So here we are – free at last,” freedom is a hollow lie that overwhelms them.
Strindberg’s Scandinavian discretion, in his original Miss Julie, made his characters’ repression and transgressions even more shocking. Here, in the hot, dry grazing lands of South Africa, everything is laid bare like the red soil and the roots of ancient evils. John says of his masters’ historical crimes, and his ancestors’ dispossession: “They try to cover it up, but they can’t hide what they have done.”
Much that Strindberg threw a veil over is exposed. What is implied in Miss Julie is explicit here. The writer and director Yaël Farber’s imagery, at its best, is memorable, but her dramatic craft doesn’t quite match the power and vision of those images.
Mies Julie is breathtaking (as are both Cronje and Mantsai’s performances), but, finally, it falls short of the truly great theatre it had the potential to be.
Link here to the complete review in The West Australian