Assamese Play – Miss Julie

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The Blueyes team reviews the Assamese adaptation of the play “Miss Julie”, designed and directed by Boloram Das and Urmilaa Mahanta, playing the role of Julie.

Design and directed by Boloram Das, the Assamese adaptation of the Swedish play ‘Miss Julie’  written in 1888 by  Johan August Strindberg was staged on 21st and 22nd April 2018 at ‘Ba Studio’ at Six Mile, Panjabari, Guwahati in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. The air-conditioned mini-theatre with a capacity of around 80 people is unique as all its walls and ceilings are black inside which is ideal for drama lighting, where a mixed crowd of different age group from diverse fields were sitting in the floor or on chairs within a few feet away from the only two characters in the play.

A classic piece of work, Strindberg understood characters and their dreams, he created something that feels real and the play portrays people’s thoughts as they were at that time.

‘Miss Julie’ a naturalistic play was set in the living room of the estate of the Count where the set was minimalistic with a bar cabinet and a small stool on the left, a few bottles of beer and a bottle of Burgundy lying on the top of the cabinet. In the centre, there is an aristocratic chair and behind it a kitchen cabinet with a knife and a razor. On the right, there is a sofa, centre table, coat hangar stand and telephone in a stand. On the ground, there is a pair of boots of the Count, a shoe brush and also a birdcage covered with a black cloth.

The most remarkable element of the play is how it shows the changes in the perspective of the characters in a smooth transition. As an audience, one is exposed to the most elemental and universal drama of the social fabric i.e., class and gender determinants.

There are only two characters in the play, Joe the valet/servant played by NSD graduate Boloram Das and Julie, the daughter of the Count, played by Urmila Mahanta, who is an FTII passed out.

The play begins with Julie entering the set dancing in a playful mood and in the background the crowd cheering over music. Suddenly she gives her hand to a young man sitting in the front row with the audience and they both started dancing. The young dancer was none other than their male servant Joe, who appears to be well-travelled, well-mannered and is shown as a strong character, who can charm a young lady with his experience and sweet mannerisms.

On the other part, Julie is shown as a strong-willed daughter of the Count who owns the estate. Raised by her late mother to “think like and act like a man”, she is a confused individual. She is aware of the power she holds but switches between being above the servants and flirting with Joe. She longs to fall from her pillar, an expression symbolically put across as a recurring dream she has.

Joe has aspirations to rise from his status as a servant in life and talks about managing his own hotel and Miss Julie is part of his plan.

As the play progresses, Joe bedded Julie which is displayed by the characters leaving temporarily to Joe’s bedroom and returns to the set by arranging their dresses to show that they had sex.

Suddenly after this  Joe’s behaviour changes and he started dominating Julie with abusive words. Julie realising her mistake starts thinking that to escape from all this humiliation is to run away with Joe. In between the ring of the telephone of the Count. make Joe realise that he is only a servant and refuses to run away with Julie. Ultimately at the end, Joe hands over a razor to Julie to show that suicide is the only solution to her confused state of mind.

Urmila Mahanta showed diverse emotions at times happy, dominating and at times confused. Boloram Das portrayed the character in close proximity to the audience and took care to see that it is not too theoretical or overboard. A beautiful play which tried to show emotions as an inspirational art. It is enjoyable watching two actors trying to adopt a Swedish drama to an Assamese social setting, where even today a girl from a rich family eloping with a servant may not be acceptable to the parents. The ending part of abetment to commit suicide has lost relevance in contemporary times as now women are more empowered than before.

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