Written for The Stage
You could cut the sexual tension with a knife in Yael Farber’s charged adaptation of Miss Julie. A strait-laced exploration of sexual class power, Strindberg’s original tale is cool as a cucumber compared to Farber’s scorching South African take.
Set in a kitchen in Cape Karoo the air is already thick with heat. Imperious white princess Mies Julie breaks into her black servant’s safe haven with explosive consequences.
Hilda Cronje’s Julie is a writhing girl/woman, languidly twirling and flicking her silky hair, she is a controlling temptress but her eyes scream wildly for escape.
Bongile Mantsai as John oozes sexuality and fury. In an adaptation set during the apartheid era his anger at being entrapped in an unjust class system becomes an ideological battle against slavery.
In this adaptation Christine is John’s mother. Thoko Ntshinga is a parental presence but just as dangerous as the others, a loving shackle possessed by the demons of her forefathers.
Faber’s Julie, John and Christine are not just paralysed by their social place in the world but by where their ancestors are buried. Theirs is a fight for legacy as well as personal freedom. In this searing production, the stakes, as well as the heat, feel disturbingly high.