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‘The Maids’ at Trafalgar Studios

| Art, Theatre | 08/03/2016


By Shannon Rawlins

The Maids is an energetic, tense, self-loathing tale of revenge and desperation.  Loosely based on Christine and Lea Papin’s real-life murderous revenge on their employer, Jean Genet’s play returns to London after a twenty-year absence, revived by The Jamie Lloyd Theatre Company, paired with translation from Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton.

The gifted cast command Genet’s play in a new direction.  Claire (Zawe Ashton, Fresh Meat, Misfits) and Solange (Uzo Aduba, Orange is the New Black) are the titular characters, portrayed for the first time as maids of colour, adding an interesting aspect to an already intriguing story.

The servants switch from role-play to their true selves throughout, crawling into the mistresses’ dresses, using foul language to convey their downtrodden lives to the audience.  It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate who is mimicking whom.  Having said that, this is the only fault I can pick out of the superb stage show.

As expected, Aduba is outstanding as Solange, often blurring characters with that of her sister, as their incestuous relationship comes to life on the four-poster stage.  Her final speech as the tale comes to a climax was astounding.

Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey’s Lady Edith) appears for what feels like a cameo as the stuffy mistress, but takes on the short role well.

But the standout performance of the night had to be Zawe Ashton.  Her portrayal of the younger sister Claire was heartbreaking at times, and I found myself watching her, even when another actor was delivering a monologue.  She was manic, shaky, edgy and exceptionally captivating.

In the background, psychological music adds to the apprehensive atmosphere, as flowers constantly shower the stage from above.

The Maids is on now at Trafalgar Studios until 21st May 2016.  Tickets are available here:


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