This adaptation of Stringberg’s Miss Julie set in post apartheid South Africa crackles with tension and passion throughout its 90 minutes with the two leads, Hilda Faber as Julie and Bongile Mantsai as John giving intensely physical and captivating performances as they explore the nature of race and class in a still bitterly divided country.
In this setting writer Yael Faber provides a world which adds to the original as the extreme isolation of the South African farm house serves as a smouldering hothouse for simmering desires between the two who have grown-up along side each other but who cannot truly understand the lives the other must lead.
Julie is a cruel mistress who teases and provokes John and uses his obvious love for him to humiliate him, but we come to understand that she too is a victim of the dangerous society she lives in: she has very few options to escape her situation as an Afrikaans farmer’s daughter, living in fear of squatters and her absent father. She despises John as a Kaffir and his pent up bitterness is always near the surface yet the sexual energy between the is palpable from the off.
The melancholy music played on stage by Xhosa musician Tandiwe Nofirst Lungisa the sense of a storm arriving and the energy between the characters makes for genuinely electrifying theatre as the play heads towards its inevitable, dramatic climax and the audience is left thinking about terrible inequity that still exists in South Africa and the deep divisions and potential for violence that leaves in place.