The Maids at Trafalgar Studios in The West End, London

The Maids – an unforgettable introduction to the West End

One of the outcomes of having my partner living in a different country is that I have lots of spare time and nobody to help me fill it. This should not be a problem – I live in London, after all! As much as I love to get out and experience this amazing city, there is only so much money to spend on entertaining myself (especially towards the end of the month). This means that of a night time after dinner, I end up watching TV shows in bed with some tea (I never used to drink tea, now I’m throwing it back like a true Brit – it must be the weather).

I’m not sure if it’s because I now live in England, but it felt right to finally embark on a Downton Abbey journey. I love it. It has drama, love, lust, war, beautiful outfits, pretty girls and pretty men, all set in the gorgeous countryside surrounding Highclere Castle.

Coincidentally, I read an article (no doubt sponsored) about a new theatre production of The Maids, starring Laura Carmichael. Carmichael is the actor who portrays Lady Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey. Lady Edith’s character begins as the less pretty, less intelligent and less interesting of three sisters in the Crawley household. As the show progresses, however, her story becomes increasingly interesting and her character shows wit, intelligence, intrigue and romance.

On a whim, I decided to book a ticket and see The Maids during a matinee performance on Saturday.

The play was written by French writer Jean Genet and first opened in 1947 in Paris. He was inspired by a real murder case, wherein two French maids – sisters – murdered their master’s wife and daughter. The case was particularly gruesome and the sisters were thought to have been mentally ill, overworked and from a troubled background.  They were also known lovers.

The play is a 105-minute dramatic dialogue between three strong characters and touches on themes of murder, desire, lust, envy and class separation. Carmichael portrayed a conceited and vindictive Mistress, who was so far removed from the struggles of her maids that her “well”-meaning comments often came across as malicious.

Just as impressive were the performances by Uzo Aduba (from Orange is the New Black, which I have now acquired) as Solange and Zawe Ashton (from Fresh Meat which I have just finished watching) as Claire; the maids. Both characters were multi-layered and, during the characters’ own acting out of their sadistic fantasies, perfectly captured Mistress’ viciousness while folding in themes of suffering, desire and fear which reflected their own realities.

The Maids was a dramatic rollercoaster, taking the audience on a journey with both comedic and tragic notes and never letting them take their eyes from the stage.

 

Having never been to a theatre production in the West End, The Maids was the perfect first impression and has me hooked. I will be back.

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