THERE are only three characters in Yael Farber's modern day reworking of Miss Julie, but they walk a stage crowded with ghosts.

There are the ghosts of Christine's ancestors, buried beneath the floorboards and feeding the roots which threaten to break through at any moment.

There is the ghost of Julie's mother, who took her own life, leaving her young daughter to discover her still warm body.

Hanging over it all, like the gathering storm clouds, is the spectre of five decades of apartheid, and the accumulated anger and resentment which still festers.

The action takes place on April 27, 2012, 18 years to the day Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president.

But, as black workers celebrate Freedom Day in the grounds of Weeping Farm homestead, in Karoo, it soon becomes clear little has changed amid the arid landscape of this deeply conservative outpost.

John and his mother Christine are still preparing meals and scrubbing boots for her old white master, with no prospects of a better life.

The master's daughter Julie, meanwhile, who was raised by Christine and grew up with John, feels trapped between loyalty to her father and affection for his servants.

Over the course of a single day, the complex desire between John and Julie - a seething mixture of love, lust and revenge - plays itself out over and on the kitchen table.

As they learn the steps to a new dance, by turns cruel and tender, their tragic story is that of a nation still in transition.

This is a deeply atmospheric play, as uncompromising and starkly beautiful as the environment in which it is set.

Bongile Mantsai and Hilda Cronje are hugely impressive as John and Julie, burning up the stage with their sexual chemistry.

In reclaiming August Strindberg's Miss Julie, a text which once shocked Victorian audiences, and restoring its power, Farber has added another layer to a show already dense with symbolism.

Mies Julie is at the Riverside Studios, in Hammersmith, until May 19. For tickets, visit or call the box office on 020 8237 1111.