SINGAPORE – In an unusual move for a pandemic-era play, Singapore Repertory Theatre’s production of the sexually charged play Miss Julie will be staged in both Singapore and Hong Kong.
The Asian premiere of SRT’s production – an adaptation of the play first penned in 1888 by Swedish writer August Strindberg – is being presented in collaboration with the Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF).
As such, the cast and crew from Singapore, Hong Kong and Britain had to agree to being quarantined if required.
For the Singapore show, the Singaporean director and two actors came from Britain on a vaccinated travel lane flight. The rest of the cast and crew are Singaporean.
SRT artistic director Gaurav Kripalani said it has been financially challenging to stage productions with the 30 per cent capacity restriction, but added: “Having a strong partner in HKAF gives us the ability to translate the work and tour in Chinese-speaking countries in the future.”
The work opens in Hong Kong on March 17 and the cast and crew will have to be quarantined there ahead of time.
Strindberg’s Miss Julie was shocking for its time – at the turn of the 20th century – for the immorality portrayed and its critique of class structure.
Today, however, a hot tryst between an aristocratic young woman and a valet would hardly raise an eyebrow.
Adaptations have since sought to introduce new themes to stoke the frisson between the characters.
SRT’s adaptation will not only confront issues of morality and class, but also those of race and colonialism.
Adapted by British-Hong Kong playwright Amy Ng and directed by Britain-based theatre-maker Ng Choon Ping, the play is set in post-World War II Singapore – or Hong Kong, depending on where it is performed.
Miss Julie is now the daughter of a British tycoon who crashes a servants’ party and meets the Asian servant John. A psychosexual and class power struggle ensues.
Audiences can also expect some reference to the social and political dynamics of the late 1940s.
Amy Ng, who is also a historian, said of Singapore and Hong Kong: “Both were reoccupied by Britain after World War II, but the experience of witnessing the hollowness of British power led to the loss of British imperial prestige in both cities.”
Ng Choon Ping added: “The bigger change from Strindberg’s original is that the adaptation tries to find warmer connections between the characters before they are defeated by the circumstances of power difference.”
Book it/Miss Julie
Where: KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT, 20 Merbau Road
When: From Jan 25
Info: SRT’s website