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Mies Julie

September 4, 2014

MiesJulie1(picture courtesy of SRT)

Event: “Mies Julie” presented by SRT
Venue: DBS Arts Centre – Home of SRT
Run: 27th Aug – 13th Sep 2014

Blurred Lines

Based on the 1888 play by Swedish playwright August Strindberg, writer-director Yael Farber adapts what was initially a play based in Sweden about a young lady of good standing having a relationship with her well-mannered valet servant into a post-apartheid South African context, about Julie, the daughter of a rich man and farm owner, getting emotionally and physically entangled with a farmhand named John on a particularly steamy evening in the family kitchen.

Julie, played by Hilda Cronje, dances seductively and with reckless abandon on the night of the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid, while John, played by a strapping Bongile Mantsai, dutifully minds his own business at one corner of the kitchen, hard at work at polishing the boots of his master.

A lengthy interplay then occurs between the two, straddling the fine line between restraint and yielding.

The stakes are obviously high, and the consequences potentially fatal.

Finally, the two of them reach the point of no return and succumb to lust, and end up consummating their desires on the kitchen table.

What happens thereafter is an intense concoction of passion, anger, fear and confusion all rolled into one explosive mix, while the couple struggle to come to their senses and decide the appropriate course of action thereafter.

Hilda Cronje and Bongile Mantasi put in riveting performances, and the stage can barely contain the heady whirlwind of emotions the two of them project – John, the black labourer who is claiming his right as an equal citizen of the supposed new democratic era, and Julie, as a young woman who yearns to be independent from her father’s control.

John’s mother Christine, played by Zoleka Helesi, represents the voice of reason in the play, giving the two of them a weighty sense of perspective on a night when emotions run completely wild.

And while the action on stage was often gripping, there comes a point towards the end of the play where the arguments seemed to start going in circles, and the action seemed to become slightly repetitive.

The resolution is one that, sadly, offers scant hope, but as a whole, “Mies Julie” remains as raw and as powerful a piece of theatre as one can imagine.

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