Mies Julie made me understand the limits of my comfort zone. Vancouver excels in theatre, but only of a certain homegrown variety. Matching our polite sensibilities and don’t-make-a-fuss culture, local theatre can be a little, well, a little PG-13.
Not so with Mies Julie, which made me leave my comfortable West Coast mindset, and showed me how Baxter Theatre Company does theatre. The impression left behind by this touring company out of Cape Town?
You know nothing, Jon Snow.
Internationally acclaimed director Yael Farber sets her explosive new adaptation of Strindberg’s classic Miss Julie in the remote, bleak beauty of South Africa. In the sweltering heat of a Cape Karoo kitchen, a deadly battle unfolds over power, sexuality, memory, mothers, and land. This newly menacing, passionate, and relevant allegory for a post-apartheid state in transition…
It was raw, and it was a stunner. So steeped in depth and cultural significance, in ways that our relatively youngish country cannot complete. This was not a subtle piece. Blood, semen, coupling, deflowering, violence, mysticism, were all on display. Centre stage at all times was passion and anger, mixed up into the history of post-apartheid Africa.
The intensity level never lagged, but I felt like my own ability unequal to what the performances demanded. The play could have allowed us to keep better pace by letting down the tension at times, showing us more moments of fragility and tenderness.
This isn’t polite theatre. Mies Julie is not for all. If you have problems with simulated sex scenes being performed ten meters before you, then you’ll probably be disturbed by Mies Julie. Things go on considerably past the point where Hollywood would fade to black. But look past that, to the play’s true meaning, and the beautiful, bold, and intense performances on stage.
Mies Julie takes us to the point where theatre stops becoming an act, and truly becomes real life. In this, the play offers an entirely different theatre experience that is rare to find in Vancouver.
Mies Julie plays at The Cultch until April 19. Advance tickets available.