We recently chatted to Amy Ng to find out why she chose to adapt Miss Julie, and how it feels to be presenting live theatre again.
“Transposing the story to Hong Kong allowed me to explore racial relations and colonialism, which are themes completely absent from the original Strindberg play. ”
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 setup 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.