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The Maids at the Southwark Playhouse

Elizabeth Peasley

This is a very fine, slick, short play with themes of envy, power, passion and ecstasy- a rich dramatic tale told with a concentrated lyrical dialogue.

The two maids of the title are sisters who are overcome with fatigue from stifling household duties and a fermenting jealously of their mistress.- fed up with 'the stench of attics'. Together they plot her murder and in scenes which change swiftly between games of fantasy and reality the tale unfolds. As the climax is reached pay good attention – 'Camomile tea, very strong and very sweet, put ten capsules in maybe?' – who is planning for who to die?

All three characters are brilliantly acted by Madeleine Bowyer (Claire), Katja Prudinsky (Solange) and Rosalind Philips (Madam) in high heels, feathers and furs in a dream like subtly staged set (designed by Val Mahlouji).

This version, directed by Stephen Ventura and translated from the French by Martin Crimp, is a wonderful evocation of the play, written in the late 1940s by Jean Genet. The Maids made a significant contribution to the theatre of the absurd; Genet himself (1910-1986), an abandoned child brought up in an institution for unwanted children, led a tormented life with long imprisonments for theft; facts which influenced the plots and style of his drama.

I was surprised, entertained and stimulated by this great production. Do go and share in the fun.

• Running Time : Approx: 1hr 30 mins

• The Maids, Tour De Force Company at Southwark Playhouse, continues Mon-Sat until Saturday 1 May.

• 020 7620 3494

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