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Theatre Review: The Maids

Joy Watters reviews a production with strong performances but in need of 'a bit of energising'.

First performed in Paris in 1947, Jean Genet’s The Maids still has the power to disturb in this new production directed by Eve Jamieson for Dundee Rep. With its myriad themes, symbols and rituals, rebellion resulting in a deathly power struggle, Genet invoked theatricality incarnate.

Loosely based on the true story of two maids who hacked their employer to death, the play is about acting. Genet’s maids, two sisters, ritualise their ultimate dream of killing their employer. Claire takes the role of Madame, wearing her clothes, and Solange the part of Claire—acting out their hatred and love to the brink of destruction.

Madame’s return to the house brings an end to their cruel masquerade. The power play shifts to show the outcasts and their oppressor: the battle in the social order commences.

There are moments when the production seems a little rudderless, as Jamieson’s directorial intent is not clear. The action flags and the talented three-strong cast, Irene Macdougall, Ann Louise Ross and Emily Winter, is not exploited to the full.

It looks good, all gold and green rococo and very French in Kenneth Macleod’s design for the Mistress’s boudoir. There are contemporary touches—plastic booths flank both sides of the stage where the maids retire in full view of the audience.

David Paul Jones’ music weaves in and out with its feeling of growing menace and tension, percussively punctuating the action to concentrate the mind.

This production needs a bit of energising if it is to justify the revival of Genet’s landmark play rather than letting it be obliterated by the sands of time.

The Maids runs at Dundee Rep until November 4.

Tags: theatre

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