The Maids is Genet’s notorious attempt at social revolution.
Two sisters share their lives as maids to an exquisitely furred Madame. Fantasising of satisfying their venomous hatreds, the two plot to murder their employer and better their position, acting out ritualistic games of fragmented identity and sadomasochism in the claustrophobic privacy of a Parisian apartment.
Derek McLuckie, William Brennan and Richard Pears are an intimidating trio of transvestite actors. White faced and dark eyed, their performances are energetic and entertaining, capturing the sensationalism of the material in a grotesque manner which makes the makes the play feel almost like a soap.
Despite the potent poisons which creep through Genet’s subversive script, the tensions at the centre of the narrative are lamentably diffused by the production’s need to be humorous: indeed, the performances at times feel like a community outreach project to get out of work pantomime dames into legitimate theatre. Their wild gestures and comic local accents, whilst pleasing, devoid the play of any genuine drama and much of Genet’s poetry is lost in the cast’s frustratingly rushed delivery.
Pauline Goldsmith’s interpretation of The Maids does not wholly work. Whilst the performances are intriguing, it lacks subtlety and, as Madame observes, becomes “the most extraordinary combination of luxury and filth” as a consequence.