Director Kip Williams explains the attractions of transgressing in Strindberg’s upstairs-downstairs drama.

Director Kip Williams is drawn to dramas of transgression. “I think it’s one of the major threads of the work I’ve done so far,” says Williams as he prepares his new production of August Strindberg’s Miss Juliefor the Melbourne Theatre Company.

Williams, 29, is one of the most prominent of Australia’s rising young directors, having presented a series of visually striking and emotionally provoking productions for the Sydney Theatre Company during his tenure as an Associate Director. He has built a reputation as a thoughtful framer of canon texts such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Julietand Macbeth, and Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer, the latter earning him a 2015 Helpmann Award for Best Direction of a Play.

In Miss Julie, Strindberg examines a disastrous upstairs-downstairs relationship between Julie, the daughter of an aristocratic family (played in this production by Emma Hamilton), and her father’s trusted manservant, Jean (Mark Leonard Winter). “I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways Miss Juliehas similar resonances to Romeo and Juliet,” says Williams. “Romeo and Juliet have this magnetic compulsion toward each other born of encountering a mind that challenges their own in...