Mies Julie**** (Riverside Studios Hammersmith, 7 March 2013)

Posted: March 8, 2013 in Theatre

This is not a translation from Strinberg, but a loose adaptation and nothing about this production feels remotely Scandanavian, there being enough heat generated to melt an iceberg. Set in modern South Africa, Julie (Hilda Cronje) is the daughter of a white landowner and John (Bongile Mantsai) is the black farm worker with whom she begins a torrid affair. Clearly this version is meant as an allegory reflecting post-Apartheid social and politcal issues and to a point this is fine as it adds texture and substance to the story; however, in the later stages, the allegory takes over and the personal drama recedes, leaving the characters’ words and actions difficult to comprehend or to empathise with. The fault here lies in a script that is prosaic, repetitive  and often unconvincing. Fortunately, this is a production of extraordinary physicality that is able to transcend shortcomings in the script. At times, it resembles a ballet, danced not to music but to spoken words, charged with passion, eroticism and rage. The two central performances are breathtaking and overall, the production provides a stunning visual spectacle that will linger long in the memory.

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