dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Classic moves to 1940s Hong Kong
August Strindberg's classic play Miss Julie is given a makeover in a new production coming to Coventry Belgrade in July. Writer Amy Ng has moved the story to Chinese New Year in 1940s Hong Kong where Miss Julie, the daughter of the British Governor, crosses class boundaries in an affair with one of her father's servants.
Amy was keen to re-examine the 19th century play: "The initial idea to adapt Miss Julie to Hong Kong came from Alex Clifton, Artistic Director of Chester Storyhouse," she says. "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."
But Amy believes going back in time gives a more authentic adaptation. "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."
Amy, whose previous play Under the Umbrella was set in Coventry and the Chinese city of Guangzhou, opted for the wake of the Second World War. "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."
Directed by Dadiow Lin, the production, which comes to the Belgrade's B2 stage between July 8-10, features Jennifer Leong, Sophie Robinson and Leo Wan.
Amy is keen for audiences to see beyond the mistress/servant affair: "I hope audiences will think about 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."