Anyone looking at Jamie Lloyd’s current portfolio of productions would think he might have been possessed by the powers of darkness! After a long and very successful series of Pinter plays, and his current encounter with the demonic Doctor, I was very lucky to finally catch his beautiful production of Genet’s cruel and devilish ‘The Maids’, at the Trafalgar Studios.
Before any words were spoken, Soutra Gilmour’s four poster Pandora’s Box set was teasingly seductive, accompanied by a lively music track which strongly suggested this was not going to be a “bog standard version” (to quote my theatrical neighbour’s preference) of this powerful 1947 play.
As the bedroom was unveiled, showered in flower petals, we were finally introduced to Solange (Uzo Aduba) and Claire (Zawe Ashton), grotesquely disguised as their “bitch”,“shit“ and “c&*t” mistress. In an equally grotesque and intentionally disturbing dialogue, we've uncovered two very damaged, disrespected and dangerous servants, who’s ambition was to commit murder, to gain freedom. Loosely based on the real life story of the French Papin sisters who murdered their employer’s wife in 1933, this controversial three-hander clearly aims to explain and maybe even apologize for their actions. “We’re shit”, declares the soured swearing Solange, “And shit can’t love shit”, clearly proving that the disturbed sisters have nothing to lose.
Suddenly, the Louis-Quinze-Rococo themed room turns into a boxing ring, as the sisters banter, batters the brutal truths out of their troubled minds. Aduba and Ashton’s electricity, surely sparking nominations, if not winning the Theatrical Awards, for their marathon mission to tell this tragic tale. A tear-jerking tribute to all the domestic servants who've sacrificed their lives for others. Laura Carmichael’s ‘Mistress’ completes this downstairs, game of freedom.
Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton’s deliberately explicit and explosive translation sings beautifully in Jamie Lloyd’s masterful production, clearly confirming his undeniable theatrical powers.