Written and directed by Yaël Farber, and based on the play by August Strindberg, with music composed by Daniel and Matthew Pencer, Mies Julie tells the sensuous tale of black farmhand John (Bongile Mantsai) who works with his mother Christine (Zoleka Helesi) in the kitchen of a South African home, at a time when apartheid has been recently abolished.
The home is owned by a white family, but the daughter of the homeowner, Julie (Hilda Cronjé), was brought up by Christine after being shunned by her own mother. One night, when Julie professes her sexual attraction to John, their complicated upbringing and backgrounds, along with their class and race differences, tangle with their raw feelings for one another to culminate in what could be a turning point in both their lives.
Mies Julie is filled with enticing and smoldering subtexts and movements, as provocative dance pieces and haunting music are inserted within the revealing dialogue and alluring action to drive this scorching story from strong heat to the blazing fire. Mies Julie is truly indeed a fiery piece of theatre.
The two leads have sizzling chemistry that is palpable and real, and for the duration of the play you actually believe they are secret lovers, intertwined in searing yet devastating passion that they don’t know how – or if – to get out of.
As John and Julie vacillate between overpowering sexual yearning and hidden hatred, Mantsai and Cronje never falter in their convincing portrayals of two people who are emotionally bound, yet so different.
At some points, the play seems to be going over ground it has already covered, and the production starts to take on a preachy vibe.
However, in the end, the authentic, organic, and powerful performances from the cast and accompanying musicians make this steamy and erotic tale seduce its audience with such sweet success.