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The Maids

Published 1 March 2016

What’s it all about?

Head to the Trafalgar Studios 1 for Jamie Lloyd’s latest update on a classic and you’ll find yourself seduced by a tempting, surreal world where flower petals in their thousands cascade from the ceiling, music booms and figures are silhouetted in striking catwalk-like lighting.

Yes, the director-of-the-moment has done it again, creating a vivid production of Jean Genet’s servitude drama that feels as modern as its cast – Fresh Meat’s Zawe Ashton, Downton’s Laura Carmichael and, stealing the show, Orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Aduba.

As the psychological thriller’s Solange, Aduba’s prison getup has been swapped for an equally liberty constricting maid’s outfit, the uniform that binds her and her sister to their desolate lives as manipulated, abused and trapped servants. As time ticks on, they fill their hours plotting the untimely demise of their mistress, tempting, cajoling and bullying each other to the bloody finish line.

It’s disturbing, intense and, in Lloyd and designer Soutra Gilmour’s hands, a dark but beautiful nightmare.

Who’s in it?

Aduba is explosive as Solange, her and a powerful Ashton switching from obsessive adoration for their captor to bile-filled, murderous hatred with steely controlled bi-polar performances that keep the play on its blistering toes.

Carmichael is both hilarious and terrifying as their gloriously vapid, grossly manipulative Madame, bringing both light relief and an explosive burst of unpredictable energy.

It’s a fierce trio for a fierce play.  

What should I look out for?

Gilmour’s set. Is it a four poster bed or a coffin? Either way, it’s predictably incredible, especially when combined with Jon Clark’s striking lighting and Ben and Max Ringham’s unnerving sound design.

In a nutshell?

Come witness the fierce trio that is Aduba, Ashton and Carmichael in this dark, stylish, beautiful nightmare.

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Will I like it?

For all its moments of black humour, this isn’t light watching. The scenes are as long as they are intense and its no-holds-barred tackling of racial and class inequality makes for uncomfortable viewing. But that’s when theatre can be at its best, and an exemplary cast and beautiful staging make this an evening not easily forgotten.

The Maids is playing at Trafalgar Studios 1 until 1 May. You can book tickets through us here.


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While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.