Yael Farber’s critically acclaimed
The pair are incredibly watchable, especially in some of the stylised movement sequences
By relocating Strindberg’s 1888 play about an aristocratic woman’s relationship with her male servant to post-apartheid South Africa, Farber dusts off the play’s fusty depictions of gender and class politics to reveal something altogether more raw, erotic and complex. Hilda Cronje’s Julie is sometimes painful to listen to, not because of a poor text or performance but because of how spot on her representation of white privilege is. At turns she recognises her family’s guilt and the blood on all their hands, desiring to break away from her own history yet totally blind to the reality of her (black) servants’ lives and her own privilege in even having the option to leave in the first place.
Bongile Matasi as Julie’s servant and lover, John, fizzles with anger at the injustice and humiliation of his circumstances in the ‘New South Africa where miracles leave us exactly the same’. He’s clearly the victim but Matasi never panders to the audience’s sympathies, letting us simply watch and understand how both sides are now in an impossible situation. John justifiably wants the colonists to leave so he can reclaim the land that rightfully belongs to him while Julie has spent her entire life in South Africa and doesn’t know where she would go. The pair are incredibly watchable, especially in some of the stylised movement sequences that, for a change, actually depict sex as something sexy rather than fumbling and awkward. The pair resembles a game of cat and mouse with each side grappling for power over the other and personal acts become intensely political as Julie screams ‘My womb, your land grab!’. It’s a shattering criticism of possessive relationships, whether they be between a man and woman or between oppressor and oppressed, there are multiple layers that Mies Julie can be read on.