Ahead of Kip Williams’ adaptation of Miss Julie, read about the playwright behind this classic drama, who the characters are and what happens in the show
Johan August Strindberg was a Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist and painter. A prolific writer who drew often from personal experience, Strindberg revolutionised Swedish literature, both as a prose stylist and as its first great modernist.
Strindberg’s first major play, Master Olof, was rejected by the Royal Theatre in 1872. It was not until 1881 when Strindberg was aged 32, that he received his theatrical breakthrough with a premiere at the New Theatre.
Strindberg published The New Kingdom, a volume of short stories in 1883 and in years to follow wrote some of the most important plays of his career, including The Father (1887), Miss Julie (1888) and The Dance of Death (1900).
Much of Strindberg’s work exposed what he believed to be hypocrisies in class conflict, modern marriage and religion in contemporary Sweden. His career spanned four decades, during which time he wrote over 60 plays and more than 30 works of fiction, autobiography, history, cultural analysis, and politics.
An innovator with wild, wide-ranging enthusiasm, Strindberg still manages to provoke audiences in theatres around the world more than 100 years after his death.
Directing for the first time at MTC, Kip Willams is currently Resident Director at Sydney Theatre Company, where he has directed The Golden Age, Love and Information (also Malthouse), Suddenly Last Summer (Helpmann Award for Best Direction of a Play), Children of the Sun, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Under Milk Wood. Also at STC, he was Associate Director on Cyrano de Bergerac (including its tour) and Assistant Director on The Secret River. For Sydney Chamber Opera, Kip directed Index of Metals, The Lighthouse, and the double bill Ich Habe Genug and Nunc Dimittis; for Malthouse, Helium, US-A-UM, and Lord of the Flies; for Tamarama Rock Surfers, Fallout; for Sydney Writers’ Festival, 1001 Nights; for Sydney Biennale, Through the Gates (also for Sydney Chamber Opera); for Princeton Theatre (New Jersey), Fifth of July; for National Theatre (Melbourne), One for the Road, and for NIDA, Cloud 9, Lord of the Flies, and Not I. He has also been Assistant Director on several operas: Cosi fan tutte for Opera Australia, and The Turn of the Screw and Albert Herring for Victorian Opera. Kip directed the short films B, Bee & Mee, and Walk, as well as music videos for Guineafowl, including ‘Little Fingers’ and ‘Botanist’, which was listed in ABC’s Rage 50, the annual list of the top music videos. Kip completed a Masters of Dramatic Art in Directing at NIDA and a Bachelor of Arts (Media & Communication) from University of Sydney.
Robin McLeavy (Hell on Wheels) plays Miss Julie, the daughter of a Count who owns the Estate on which the play is set.
Mark Leonard Winter (Birdland) plays Jean, the Count’s valet. He has traveled widely, working in hotels, and aspires to manage his own hotel.
Zahra Newman (The Effect) plays Kristin, the Estate’s cook and Jean’s apparent fiancée.
Midsummer’s Eve is Miss Julie’s time, a night filled with desire when rules are broken, class barriers are set aside and the young mistress of the manor can dance with whomever she pleases. She chooses Jean, her father’s valet, and for a few hours through the long twilight they play an increasingly dangerous game of ‘what if?’.
The tale of passion and power finds Miss Julie, Jean, and Kristin – another servant and Jean’s apparent fiancée – stripped to their core, their innermost desires and most steadfast values unveiled. Love, lust, insecurity and ambition become tangled.
Lives are completely changed in a single night.