Review: The Maids

4*
HOME, Manchester until 1st Dec

Based on the true crime story of the murderous duo The Papin Sisters, Jean Genet’s The Maids has come to HOME this Autumn in a radical telling of the infamous story.

The Maids is about two sisters, Solange and Clare, who spend their time role playing increasingly sinister ways of murdering their mistress: wearing her clothes and dramatically reenacting the power structures which define their lives.

The play is both surreal and fantastical – the perfect play to pick apart and write about, decompressing the meaning behind it all.

Interestingly, The Maids is centred around playwright Genet. He’s very much present in the production, overlooking the stage in prison garb, the first character we meet in the play. These interventions remove the audience from the action of the play – ensure that the audience remains uncomfortable – and so I found that I started to view the play as something with meaning, as opposed to a story that I was to feel completely immersed in. It’s an interesting presentation – and left me a lot to think about.

The performances across the board are brilliant, and all of the women in the play are played by men. Again, this brings a level of removal between the characters and the audience – allowing the men to present surface level femininity that could be considered as an exploration of female archetypes and of gender. It’s quoted that Genet wanted the play to be presented in this way with an all male cast, and that he saw himself in the characters – and trying to connect him with the characters is fascinating.

The staging is also worth a mention and was unique and impressive. The use of screens and a handheld camera brought the audience in on uncomfortable action: close ups of faces and of moments that felt vulnerable and were unexpected in a theatrical setting; flowers that were weighted down and thrown like darts to litter the stage.

The Maids makes for a really interesting piece. I imagine the surreality might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it kept me intrigued throughout and the layers of story have had me thinking over it for the rest of the week.

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© M. Holland 2018

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