★★★★★ The Maids | Two young maids are dressing up in their mistress’ clothes, shoes and jewelry.

CREDIT: Marc Brener
CREDIT: Marc Brener

Claire prances about like a high-class drag queen and Solange kneels before her to have a stiletto heel ground into her back. The childish game takes a sinister twist as the maids plot Mistress’ murder in a bizarre sadomasochistic game. Mistress is due home and who knows what the maids are going to do?

Jean Genet’s classic psychodrama ‘The Maids’ has been boldly reimagined by The Jamie Lloyd Company, in a translation by Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton. There’s something fresh and new about this version that I suspect could polarize the critics and theatregoers. The dialogue is taught and tense with insane moments and camp insults thrown around. At one hour fifty minutes with no interval it’s an intense experience and one that leaves the viewer feeling disconcerted and at times, wryly amused. The staging and movement is fascinating to watch as the maids mirror each other; taunting, prancing and preening before descending into disturbing madness.

Multi award winning Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) and Zawe Ashton (Fresh Meat) are both stunning as the maids and Laura Carmichael’s (Downton Abbey) brittle Paris Hilton style mistress is a joy to behold. Uzo’s demented gleeful Solange and Zawe’s sassy drag queen style posturing as Claire are captivating and watching them unravel is a compelling to witness. Aduba and Ashton are incredibly strong in their roles and are clearly actresses at the top of their game. They are entirely credible in these difficult roles.

The staging is over the top and reminiscent of some of the more flamboyant fashion shows from McQueen or Westwood. The skilled acting aside: the set, lighting and costumes are the supporting stars. Brash lighting changes, loud musical interludes and twisted costumes add to the atmosphere and underline the play’s sense of menace.

This has to be one of the most intriguing productions in The West End right now. Catch it while you can.

“The Maids” runs  at Trafalgar Studios until the 21st of May 2016

 

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