Jean Genet’s notorious first play takes elements of the thriller and subverts them with disturbing games of language, transgression and transformation.
A poisoned teacup, a mysterious ‘Monsieur’, a profusion of flowers and two sisters caught up in a fantasy of conspiracy and murder. When left alone in the house, Claire and Solange Lemercier indulge in secret rituals of hatred and revenge, directed against their wealthy employer. They both love and hate their mistress and are drawn daily to act out fantasies of power and submission. Will the game ever reach its conclusion and with what consequences?
Jean Genet was a leading figure in the avant-garde theatre movement and this play is considered to be a powerful work in the canon of modern drama. This production transposes the tale to 19th century India demonstrating the politics of power and class, and where the stylistic and expressionistic nuances lend themselves to the illusory world inhabited by the maids.
This production of The Maids directed by Sâmir Bhamra features a cast of male and female actors rotating performances on an alternate or weekly basis. Although, the first performance of The Maids had a female cast, Jean Genet’s long time friend and supporter, Jean Paul Sartre, states that Genet’s intention was always for the production to feature young men playing women, because female actors did not need to “play” women. They naturally have a softness in their voice, skin and demeanour. He wanted the actors to appear “de-realised” – and to create this artificial state, he wanted to eliminate nature i.e. soften a broken voice, cover-up the blue/green tones of a beard, soften the hard muscles to imagine a world momentarily without women.
Bhamra, on the other hand wants to understand how different genders play with the roles – how far are they willing to stretch the imaginary world.
“This way, I can present something beautiful and bizarre/grotesque – because this is the world we live in. Everything around us is disguised better, we hide our prejudices better. Women in our world today work hard, play hard, and make hard decisions. They do the work of a man, and often better than a man. Where does this leave the man? Men seem to searching for their new identity. We’ve seen ‘the sensitive man’, ‘the metro-sexual’ and it is becoming more acceptable to be aware and present their feminine side. As a whole, there has been a shift – women are becoming more masculine and men are becoming more feminine – and that for me – is both beautiful and bizarre.”
Sâmir Bhamra, was born in Nairobi, Kenya, his recent work includes the Pulitzer Prize nominated play A Perfect Ganesh written by Terrence McNally, Romeo + Laila and Precious Bazaar (nominated for a Windrush Arts Award). For this production, Bhamra has also designed the set, the costumes, the lighting and the sound.
The Maids has been made possible by arrangement with Rosica-Colin and The Agency London. Suitable for 15+
The male cast features Jeremy Williams (theatre: Counterfeit Skin, The Maids RSC’s Henry V), Robby Khela (music: BBC Unsung finalist, Indian Idol 4, theatre: What You Fancy,) and Pritesh Chauhan (theatre: Oliver Twist, West Side Story, What You Fancy).
The female cast comprises Zafreen (films: Brick Lane, Symmetry of Love, theatre: Tara Arts Sonata), Bhavika Mistry (theatre: Precious Bazaar, Romeo+Laila, What You Fancy) and Kanira Shah (film: Fashion, theatre: Murder On The Menu)
For full listings, cast biographies, images and any other information please contact: Suman on 07930 101894 or visit www.phizzical.com and www.watermans.org.uk