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Writer's Kate Box and Cristabel Sved tell us about why they decided to take on Strindberg's infamous woman, Miss Julie.

Our journey with Miss Julie began when we were looking for a play to work on together; the criteria – a great role for a woman. Serendipitously, we both came to each other with Miss Julie. In this play, Strindberg has written such wonderful and conflicted characters who explore their humanity and push their psyches to the outer limits. Neither Julie nor Jean fit the roles they’re expected to play, and through the other they hope to reinvent themselves and escape their powerless lives – an epic battle ensues. Their struggle for self and purpose seemed entirely recognisable and relevant today. We decided to adapt it together.

We wanted to remain faithful to the play while at the same time making the text more immediate for a contemporary audience. We were drawn to the poetry and complexity of Strindberg’s writing, and we wanted our adaptation to celebrate this and meet the challenge of the characters’ irrational and contradictory natures. We have reworked the text where some of the 19th century emphasis and Darwinian theories obfuscate their struggle; in particular Miss Julie’s loss of honour as a catalyst for her demise. In this new version of Miss Julie we are more interested in the complex psychological and existential issues that are in the play. We have focused on Julie’s traumatic family past, making this the central cause for her confusion and despair.

In our reimagining, Jean is an older man, a father figure, adding a new dimension to the emotional battle that rages within and between the characters. At the same time, it intensifies the urgency for Jean to grab what is now his last window of opportunity. We were also excited about developing the significance of Kristen, who Strindberg describes in his preface as a “supporting character…deliberately sketched in.” We have coloured a little outside the lines and created a few surprises.

Writing together and delving into the outpourings of Strindberg’s mind greatly enriched our roles as director and actor once we hit the rehearsal room floor. The intimate space of Darlinghurst Theatre is a great fit for Strindberg’s microscope on humanity.

Kate Box and Cristabel Sved

Miss Julie plays 12 Oct - 11 Nov.

Posted 11 Oct 2012

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