Fröken Julie

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Fröken Julie ("Miss Julie") is naturalistic play in Swedish by August Strindberg (1849-1912)[1].

Known in South Africa largely by its most enduring English title, Miss Julie.

The play

Strindberg completed it in 1888 and staged its first production in 1889. The play, written in Swedish, was published in expurgated form in Copenhagen in 1889 by Joseph Seligmann (1836-1904), a Swedish publisher. The deleted passages have since been restored. The first production in Stockholm took place in November 1906, at The People's Theatre, with Sacha Sjöström as Kristin, Manda Björling as Miss Julie, and August Falck as Jean.

By 1893 it had been performed in German at the Freie Bühne in Berlin as well as in French by André Antoine in Paris.

Translations and adaptations


Strindberg's most translated play, it was first translated into English as Julie: A Tragedy by A. Swann (1911); Countess Julia by Charles Recht (1912), and as Miss Julia. A Naturalistic Tragedy by Edwin Björkman (1912). It was first performed in England in , while the Recht translation was produced on Broadway at the 48th Street for three performances in 1913. Today best known in English simply as Miss Julie (or in some cases, Lady Julie).


Translated and adapted and directed for TV in Afrikaans by Stephan Bouwer and filmed as Juffrou Julia with Annelisa Weiland, Ryno Hattingh and Annette Engelbrecht. Produced for and broadcast by the SABC on 20 February 1984.

In 1985 Bobby Heaney and John Slemon adapted the play to South Africa by making it an issue of black/white relationships, but retained the basic text for the controversial production.

In 1987 Mario Schiess likewise adapted the play as Julia, also setting it in South Africa during the Apartheid years, casting the central characters from different race groups.

Another, even more radical, localized South African adaptation of Strindberg's play - called Mies Julie - was written by Yaël Farber in 2011, and subtitled: Restitutions of Body and Soil Since The Bantu Land Act No. 27 of 1913 and The Immorality Act No. 5 of 1927 The text was published by Oberon Books in 2011.

South African Productions

Countess Julie (FATSSA Play Festival, 1945)

Put on by the Natal University College at the 1945 FATSSA play festival with the title Countess Julie. With Walter Martin as Jean, the play won the Festival Award. Martin, for best individual performance, won the Breytenbach Cup. The production also featured Norah Southwood and Millicent Posselt.

Miss Julie (National Youth Theatre, 1959-1960)

Playreading/production for schools, performed by the company.

Miss Julie (CAPAB (1973)

Produced as Miss Julie by CAPAB in the Hofmeyr Theatre opening 15 March 1973 with Lois Butlin, Roger Dwyer, Marion Achber, Liz Dick, Stephen Gurney, Paula Hoffmann, Barry Jarvis, Elliot Playfair, David Sherwood, Marilyn Simpson and Michael Swinton. Keith Grenville directed , designs by Penny Simpson. The translation into English by Michael Meyer was used.

Miss Julie (Upstairs at the Market, 1978)

Produced by The Company as Miss Julie in May, directed by Lindsay Reardon, with Reza de Wet and Peter Piccolo. Stage management by Andrew Mazibela and choreography by Graham Clarke.

Miss Julie, 1970s?

According to actress Susan Gordon's CV she appeared in an unspecified performance of the play as "Miss Julie".

Miss Julie (Hermit Theatre, Durban, 1980)

Directed by Malcolm Purkey

Miss Julie (Baxter Theatre and Market Theatre, 1985)

In 1985 Bobby Heaney and John Slemon staged what was to become a most controversial production of the play at the Baxter Theatre and the Market Theatre, one in which the servants Jean (John) and Kirstin (Christine) are black and Miss Julie is a white landowner's daughter. Produced by Mavis Lilenstein, directed by Bobby Heaney, with John Kani, the leading Black actor of the time and Sandra Prinsloo, the leading White Afrikaans actress of her generation, and Natie Rula (as Christine). Lighting by Sydney Jansen.

The play, approved for performance - but given a 2-16 age restriction by the Publications Control Board because of the adult content, opened at Baxter Theatre in Cape Town on 5 February 1985 to a generally positive reception, playing to 23 February. However there were rising murmurs of discontent and protests in rightwing publications before and during the run, often from people who had not seen it. Apparently also one or two incidents of people walking out. Indeed Sandra Prinsloo was targeted with obscenities and death threats. The play then transferred to the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, where it met opened on 26 February, 1985, to huge opposition and controversy, including a staged walkout of about a third of the audience, organised by right-wing Afrikaners on the opening night, and even more responses and calls targeting the actress with obscenities and death threats.

The same production was invited to play on the main programme of the 1985 Edinburgh Festival, opening on 26 August 1985 for a run of seven performances in the Royal Lyceum Theatre. The adaptation was generally well attended and received, though some critics were a trifle uncertain about the impact of the racial casting on the deeper lying theme of the Swedish play.

A joint South African/Swedish TV film adaptation of this production made in 1986. Produced by Mavis Lilenstein, directed by Bobby Heaney and Finnish director, Mikael Wahlforss, with music by Joe Davidow. It was filmed in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa and released on the 29 May 1986 in Finland and 11 June in Sweden on Oy Yleisradio AB, TV1/SVT2/Epidem.[2]

Julia, (Black Sun, Johannesburg, 1987)

A play by Mario Schiess, a localized adaptation of the theme of August Strindberg play Miss Julie, but set in South Africa during the Apartheid years. The central central characters are from different race groups.

Staged in the Black Sun in Johannesburg, in 1987: directed by Mario Schiess, with Margaret Koch (Julia), Leslie Mongezi (Jan) and Sandi Schultz (Christine).

Miss Julie (University Theatre Stellenbosch, 1989)

Using the classic text, but featuring a multiracial cast, the play was performed by University Theatre Stellenbosch in the H.B. Thom Theatre during March 1989, directed by Noël Roos with Lynn Smith, Duncan Johnson and Tanya Swanepoel. By this stage in the evolution of the country, the production was well attended and caused no disturbances.

Mies Julie (Yaël Farber, 2012)

Another localized adaptation of Strindberg's play, this time written by Yaël Farber and subtitled: Restitutions of Body and Soil Since The Bantu Land Act No. 27 of 1913 and The Immorality Act No. 5 of 1927 The text was published by Oberon Publishers in 2011.

Presented by The Baxter Theatre Centre in association with the South African State Theatre over the period 2012-2013, it was directed by Yaël Farber with Thoko Ntshinga as Christine, Bongile Mantsai as John, and Hilda Cronjé as Mies Julie. Music composed by Daniel Pencer and Matthew Pencer, music performed by: Brydon Bolton, Mark Fransman and Tandiwe Nofirst Lungisa (singer and musician). Set and lighting design by Patrick Curtis, original lighting design by Paul Abrams and costumes by Birrie le Roux.

This production played to great acclaim at numerous venues, including the Baxter Theatre, the Edinburgh Assembly Fringe Festival in Scotland, the State Theatre in Pretoria, St Ann's Warehouse in New York and the Market Theatre. It has garnered numerous awards in the same period.


The Sunday Star, 11 Oct 1987.

Beeld, 12 Oct 1987.

The Star, 14 Oct 1987.

Ruphin Coudyzer. 2023. Annotated list of his photographs of Market Theatre productions. (Provided by Coudyzer)

The Sunday Star, 11 Oct 1987.

Beeld, 12 Oct 1987.

The Star, 14 Oct 1987.

Trek 10(8):23, 1945.

Theatre programmes, (Baxter Theatre 1985), Upstairs at the Market.

Egil Törnqvist. 1999. Ibsen, Strindberg and the Intimate Theatre: Studies in TV Presentation. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: p. 211.

Pat Schwartz. 1988. The Best of Company. Johannesburg, Ad Donker.

19/06/2013 - Artslink News

The Baxter Theatre[3]

Facsimile version of the Björkman English translation[4]

O. Classe (ed), 2000, Encyclopedia of Literary Translation Into English: A-L[5]

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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