21 March 2013

Mies Julie at the Riverside

I really liked Mies Julie but the evening was slightly spoilt by the reviews, which is one reason why I tend to avoid them.

The reviews promised a five-star performance  whereas I would have scored it at no more than four, and probably not quite that, not that I do scores for much the same reason as I don't read reviews - they give misleading expectations.

The reviews are doing their job though and the place was packed and I had to join the queue early to get a reasonable seat in the front row.

Mies (Miss) Julie is the young daughter of a white landowner in apartheid South Africa. He is away and she is left bored at home with the (black, obviously) housekeeper and her son whose main job seems to be cleaning shoes.

The story of the play is tension. This is most obvious in the physical tension between the young man and woman and is echoed in the tension between their ancestors who fought over the land. This tension erupts in to violence, as it had in the past. Some of this violence is almost playful, like bear cubs playing, but some has a nasty edge and a lot of history to it.

There is some light in the dark and that comes from the, presumably ethnic, music that comes from a continuous sound track played on a ubiquitous Apple Mac and is supplemented by a saxophonist who played some odd sounds occasionally and an elder woman who walked across the stage from time-to-time chanting.

The music was a real bonus and was fundamental in setting the tone of the slow dark drama.

What worked less well was the direction.

For some reason that did nothing to help the story and which looked completely unnatural the motion of the two main players, particularly the man, was far too animated. This picture shows an example of that, why on earth is he on the table? Not only was there too much jumping and climbing over the limited furniture but there was far too much arm waiving and pointing too.

Back to the story. The playful violence between the two young people develops in to something more. She briefly harbours ideas of a new life away from the lonely farm but that never looks like anything other than a dream.

Some things come to an unexpected violent end and others continue as they had for centuries. The lasting memory of the play is of the sexual tension, confrontation, violence and history. For that I can forgive the over exuberance in the directing.

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