The Maids

Whilst the cat's away, the mice will play. The Maids leans on elements of class panic, including the fear of what the staff will get up to when you are gone. It could be anything. It could be murder. This performance is part of the Korean Season at this year's Fringe and is performed in Korean without any English subtitles. The Korean performers deepen the race analysis of the play, in a world where these positions of domestic work, to this day, are more often performed by asian women and women of colour.

Inventive, fantastic and extremely well thought though

At first, I am surprised that this performance of The Maids has a splash zone where we are advised not to sit, but the more I think about what the show is actually about, the more it makes perfect sense. In Jean Genet’s original text, whilst their master is away a pair of maids get into increasingly more elaborate sadomasochistic fantasies, where at times they both play their Madame in charge and both play the Maid. They imitate each other and their master, and attempt repeatedly to act out violent fantasies against the Madame. Reality and fantasy become muddled and indistinct for the audience - what is play, what is funny, what is truth, what is violence, what is sexual tension? Genet’s plays feature the downtrodden in society mocking and role-playing as their oppressors, in order to stand up to them.

The Maids is a pretty lesbian play and a classic femdom story, and sits alongside more recent ventures into the genre like Disney’s Cruella. Jean Genet as a practising homosexual knew what would have been deemed unacceptable on stage in 1947, and in the text they are sisters. When your existence is a crime you take what representation you can find.

Due to this quite open premise, The Maids is really suitable for adventurous adaptation. This production is performed to begin with mostly in silence with excellent use of props. The use of water is inventive, fantastic and extremely well thought though. Both performers should be commended on their highly expressive physicality and facial expression. You can read in their faces the exact moment fun and play turns to pain and horror. The moments of warmth and kindness, and sharing of a joke between the two, are really heartwarming moments of bonding within the dark and oppressive loom of the house in which they work. The show has an excellent use of pacing, perfect pauses and waiting for the tension to build, only to crash over into violence again. I adore the choreography and the physical theatre, as the pair dream of more complex fantasies. You can clearly follow the storyline from the symbolic staging.

Later in the piece, it spills over into spoken language, which first begins as an opportunity to mock and perform in the roleplay more accurately. As the piece progresses, it becomes an opportunity for the pair to converse more fully. I am dying to know what is being said in these later points.

In my heart this is a four star production, but as there are a couple of moments where I am not sure what is happening in specific, I settle at three. I would recommend this production.

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Reviews by M Johnson

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★★★
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

A play that stimulates the imagination, The Maids is a bold story of domination through domestication. Using props on the stage to stir the imagination, chairs turn into windows or a whole different world as the actors flow ceremoniously around the stage. A stimulating and beautiful play embodying the aesthetics of moderation. Are the Maids using the water to clean, or are they destroying their Madame’s house?

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