After winning a Fringe First award in 2012 for their post-apartheid adaptation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie, the Baxter Theatre Centre bring Mies Julie back to the Fringe this year.
We meet Julie (Hilda Cronje), the farm owners white daughter, and John (Bongile Mantasi), the black farm hand, on Freedom Day in South Africa. Smoky lighting fills the stage and sex lingers. You can feel the stifling heat. As Julie and John get closer and closer, racial tensions, sexual tensions, class tensions, love and hatred all collide in 90 minutes of unbearably raw performance.
Cronje is outstanding. Every slur thrown at John drips with venom, but also with fear. Her unsated lust, terror and love can be seen in her body which shakes with an animal like ferocity in a performance with near unparalleled nuance. Mantasi is a more than capable match, portraying John’s internal struggle with logic and desire, fear and anger, pain and love in an impressively physical performance.
The Fringe is rife with interpretations of classic plays, reworded and reset in an attempt at originality. Yael Farber’s expertly written Mies Julie is the yardstick for such productions, an incomparably rich adaptation that takes the themes of its predecessor and runs with them to create a gut-wrenching experience that is so much more than standard theatre.
Words: Chiara Margiotta
Mies Julie, Assembly Rooms, Aug 26-27, 6pm