Review: THE MAIDS ***




Greenside@Infirmary Street. (Venue 236)

August 3 to 11 20.45 & August 13 to 18 23.05

*** Three Stars

This, at fifty five minutes, is a condensed version of the famous play by Jean Genet, the French gay novelist, playwright and polemicist. This is the play of his most often performed, though others, such as The Balcony, have more expansive themes.

In this production from Sudden Impulse Theatre Company, using a translation by Bernard Frechtman, Solange is played by Saul Bache and Claire is played by Sam Bates. These two maids serve Madam ( Louis Hayward). Often the three female characters are played by men, usually in a way that emphasizes the male bodies beneath, as here, where female clothing reveals the male bodies, almost but not quite with full frontal nudity.

It is the maids who are on stage most of the time. Madam here is something of a cameo. They act out loathing and violence. In turns, one maid becomes Madam and beats and abuses the other – very realistically. ( And with Fringe audiences who have little experience of this sort of theatre this may result in much laughter, as was the case when I saw the play.) The two hate Madam enough to want to kill her.

There is loathing of servants pronounced by the pretend Madams, but this loathing may well be interpreted as that of servants qua servants, and as a hatred of the social order. Genet was no friend of the way in which society was organized. There may also be a loathing of the maids’ despised sexuality, as in amongst the stripping and whipping and kicking there is much homoerotic sexual play.

This is a memorable production, of which director Simon N W Winterman should be proud, and the cast definitely give it their all. Saul Bache and Sam Bates are thoroughly involved in their parts and thrust themselves into every line and action.

This is not a show for the faint hearted. It shows us intense mutually dependent relationships, but the sickness of society and perhaps of humanity prevents love being shown in other ways. This is one to see for a truly arresting experience.

Tony Challis