We think we are super ‘woke’,” says playwright Polly Stenham, “yet in reality we rely on a whole cast of modern slaves. On the one hand, we are reading the Guardian and on the other, we may be paying the cleaner cash in hand.”
Stenham is at the National Theatre in London working on her fifth play, Julie, an adaptation of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie. Her lead, played by the Bafta-winning Vanessa Kirby, is a rich, thirtysomething Londoner while Jean, a Ghanaian immigrant, is her driver. Katrina is a Brazilian maid and like Jean, a victim of the zero-hours economy.
“It becomes really intersectional and really fucking political,” says Stenham. “I wanted to show the dark heart of liberalism, especially in this building which is populated by the liberal elite, and to go for the jugular. I’m part of it: Julie is not a million miles off me as a character.”