Don’t miss your chance to see British-Hong Kong playwright Amy Ng’s politically-charged production of Miss Julie, presented by New Earth Theatre and Storyhouse, at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre from 8-10 July 2021.
Directed by Dadiow Lin and starring Sophie Robinson (Miss Julie), Jennifer Leong (Christine) and Leo Wan (John), the production has received a host of rave reviews.
The Stage critic awarded the show five stars, describing the piece as “a tremendous production, balancing beauty and brutality”.
Set in Hong Kong in the run up to the Second World War, this adaptation examines the UK’s colonial past. Julie is the daughter of a high-profile British government official. With her father away for the weekend, Julie comes downstairs to see her Chinese driver, John and maid, Christine. Crossing a threshold, Julie initiates a sexually-charged power game with Jean, which descends into a fight for survival as sex, power, money and race crash into a hot night in Hong Kong under British rule.
Originally part of Storyhouse’s rep season, the show has been revived by New Earth Theatre and Storyhouse for this UK tour. The production will be staged in a Covid safe environment, following latest government advice and adhering to social distancing guidelines for audiences.
Below Amy Ng discusses her adaptation of Miss Julie and what presenting it to live audiences post-lockdown means to her and the company.
How does it feel to be able to bring Miss Julie back to live audiences?
Amazing. Hopeful. Anxiety-inducing. Hostage to Covid-variants.
Why did you choose to adapt the play to 1940s Hong Kong, and what do you think it adds to the story?
The initial idea to adapt Miss Julie to Hong Kong came from Alex Clifton, artistic director of Chester Storyhouse. He envisioned a contemporary Miss Julie which could comment directly on the political situation in Hong Kong now, caught between its British colonial past and the realities of rule by Beijing.
On reflection, I felt that a contemporary adaptation of Miss Julie was not possible as the social taboos surrounding sexual relationships across class and race are simply not as strong now as they were in the past.
I thought that the set-up of two servants versus an aristocrat was full of potential — if we made the two servants Chinese and the aristocratic lady a daughter of the British colonial elite in Hong Kong.
I picked the late 1940s because this was the time when social structures and racial hierarchies started to quake — the British colonial masters had lost prestige and respect after their swift defeat in Hong Kong by the Japanese, and things were never quite the same even after they resumed power after the war.
Obviously transposing the story to Hong Kong allowed me to explore racial relations and colonialism, which are themes completely absent from the original Strindberg play. It also allowed me to counter the misogyny in the Strindberg version by building up the character of Christine, envisioning her as a member of the sisterhood of domestic servants (“sor hei”) who chose celibacy to retain their freedom in a patriarchal society where wives were subjected to their husbands.
What do you hope audiences take away from watching Miss Julie?
How race, class and gender hierarchies distort personal relationships; how those tensions can destroy everything that is genuine and beautiful in relationships unless we challenge those hierarchies.
And finally, what would you say to anyone considering buying a ticket for the show?
You won’t regret it! Director Dadiow Lin has created a beautiful production with the amazing actors Jennifer Leong, Sophie Robinson and Leo Wan.
Amy Ng is a British-Hong Kong playwright. Her previous theatre credits include Under The Umbrella (Belgrade Theatre/UK tour), Acceptance (Hampstead Theatre) and Shangri-La (Finborough Theatre). Ng is currently under commission to the Royal Shakespeare Company and ice&fire, and is developing her play Thatcher In China at the National Theatre Studio. She is also part of the inaugural Genesis Almeida New Playwrights Big Plays programme.
Miss Julie runs at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry from 8-10 July 2021 with performances (one hour and 15 minutes, no interval) at 7.45pm including a Saturday matinee at 2.15pm. Age guidance is 16-plus as the production contains some strong language, violence and scenes of a sexual nature.