“Dazzling, dangerous and captivatingly queasy” The Guardian
Based very loosely on a notorious 1930s murder case, The Maids is a shocking play with boldlydrawn characters, unreliable narrators and a lot to say about class and gender politics.
Claire and Solange are two maids, trapped in a menial life of service to a Mistress so uncaring that she cannot reliably tell them apart. While she is out of the apartment, they enact vicious erotic fantasies of murdering her, by dressing in her clothes and taking turns to play at being her and each other.
When she returns before they have fully cleaned up from their games, the Maids realise they must turn the fantasy into reality to save themselves. But how can they, when she has all the power and they have none?
This play has immense contemporary resonance in two distinct ways: the conversation around breaking down traditional gender constructs; and the corrosive approach of extreme inequality on society.
My intention is to create a show that delivers a real emotional punch and The Maids has the potential to be spectacularly powerful when staged inside the Studio’s ‘black cube!
Of all Genet’s works, The Maids (1947) is the one most often revived. It combines respect for theatrical form and language with an absurdist challenge to the audience’s expectations – and comfort.
All three characters are female, but they have historically been played by either gender. Although we go into the auditions with a preference for casting a man as the Mistress and women as the two maids, we remain open-minded and invite any Bancroft Players member to read for any role. It is essential to remember that the characters will be played as female whatever the casting – this is not an opportunity for Panto-style exaggeration!
We are using the modern translation of the text by Andrew Upton and Benedict Andrews. It contains a large amount of strong language – and three equally strong characters that will reward a cast willing to improvise and workshop a non-naturalistic style during the rehearsal process. We will be setting this production in the 1980s.
All roles can be played by any gender or age, but the characters themselves have fixed genders and ages. Any discrepancy between cast and character is exactly the effect Genet intended…
The Mistress: playing gender/age female/20-35. Wealthy, capricious, shallow and sometimes brutally dismissive of her maids, the Mistress has all the money and luxury her heart could desire. Like a modern-day Footballer’s Wife, however, she hasn’t earned it and isn’t quite sure she deserves it.
Solange and Claire: playing gender/age female/30s. Maids, and sisters (although not necessarily blood sisters). In their enactments of the Mistress’s murder they sometimes play as each other, and the roles are somewhat similar. Solange is the older sister, a self-loathing masochist who is the more resentful of Madame, with a long and powerful monologue near the end of the play. Claire is slightly more sympathetic to the Mistress, but is also capable of brutally cruel impersonations of her. While Solange hates the Mistress, Claire wants to be her.