Previewed 20 February 2016, Opened 29 February 2016, Closed 1 May 2016 at the Trafalgar Studio in London
A major revival of Jean Genet's 'psychological thriller' The Maids in London starring Uzo Aduba, Zawe Ashton and Laura Carmichael and directed by Jamie Lloyd.
Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton have updated to a contemporary setting Jean Genet's classic story of two maids - Solange and Claire - who fanatatise on variety of ways that they could kill their employer.
PLEASE NOTE: This production contains adult themes.
The cast features Uzo Aduba as 'Solange', Zawe Ashton as ' Claire' and Laura Carmichael as 'Madame'. Directed Jamie Lloyd with movement by Polly Bennett, designs by Soutra Gilmour, lighting by Jon Clark and music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham. Uzo Aduba is best known for playing the role of 'Suzanne 'Crazy Eyes' Warren'. Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black, for which she has won two Emmy awards. Zawe Ashton is best known for playing 'Vod' in the Channel 4 television comedy drama Fresh Meat. Laura Carmichael is best know for playing 'Lady Edith Crawley' in the ITV television period drama Downton Abbey, her West End theatre credits include the role of 'Sonya' in Lindsay Posner's revival of Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya (Noel Coward Theatre 2012).
When this production opened here at the Trafalgar Studios in February 2016, Ann Treneman in The Times reckoned that "this psychodrama in which sisters Solange and Claire repeatedly act out the murder of the mistress they love and hate is, by a mile, the most stylish thing on stage in London... All three actresses are sensationally good... The only weak link is that this translation by the Australian theatre directors Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton is indulgent." Sarah Hemming in The Financial Times praised how "Jamie Lloyd’s powerfully acted revival plunges wholeheartedly into the ripeness of this strange, sadomasochistic psychodrama but also gives it a new edge. He relocates it to the US and, casting two black actresses as the maids, adds race to the toxic mix of wealth, class and privilege that drives the two servants to act out elaborate fantasies of murderous revenge when their employers are out." Michael Billington in The Guardian thought that "what this version underplays is the religious element behind the play... In place of religion, Lloyd’s production is very much about racial and economic servitude... Even if Genet’s perversion of religious ritual is sacrificed, this is a highly impressive, deeply political production of a lost landmark." Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard highlighted that "the performances are memorably intense," adding that "Jamie Lloyd's decision to make this a drama about racial tensions rather than just class is smart, and locating the action in America feels equally shrewd. But he uses an unsubtle translation by Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton, which robs the play of some of its wit." Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail said that "Jamie Lloyd’s direction is characteristically 'challenging' – in other words weird, ugly, violent, tricksy, all boast and no trouser... But what a rotten, moany play this is, offering so little context and motivation." Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph described how "Jamie Lloyd directs with his customary flair for jolting lighting changes and energising sound-cues. Yet I can't whip myself into a state of high excitement about the evening. The verbose, repetitive interactions and bickering power-play form inescapable elements (and limitations) of the original, but there's also too much that's crude and cryptic about the free 'translation'... Profanities abound but the poetic, delicate heart of Genet is rather less apparent." Holly Williams in The Independent commented that the "eye-catching casting and director Jamie Lloyd's typically precision-honed visual style don't quite prove enough to bring to life this modern production of Jean Genet's 1947 play... It's a polished, good-looking production, but that doesn't always chime with a play about the darker, seamier undercurrents that lurk when financial inequality breeds unjust imbalances of power."
"Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton's overheated American version of French playwright Jean Genet's overrated lament for the oppressed has considerably upped the expletive count in an attempt to recreate the shock that greeted the piece in 1947. Neither this nor anything else in Jamie Lloyd's tensionless production can allay the pulverising dullness of the servant-mistress relationship, endlessly played out in various ways on a single, shouty note. If Genet’s play has a subtext, Lloyd fails to expose it... This revival is merely an endurance test, not worth taking." The Mail on Sunday
"Jamie Lloyd has assembled a starry(ish) cast for this ferocious frolic about the crushing anonymity of servitude. Uzo Aduba and Zawe Ashton are the underlings playing games of dominance and submission in the perfumed boudoir of their temporarily absent Mistress. Lloyd and his actors lay on the play's tragicomic hissy fits and writhing power play, its pungent excess, but from the outset this production superficialises the work's deeper depiction of erotic threat and violence in ways it can't subsequently reverse... The evening isn't helped by a blunt tin-opener of a translation by Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton. The script keeps the insults flying thick and fast and jettisons the original's formal elements of Catholic Mass." The Sunday Times
"Strangulation, masturbation, incest - Jean Genet's 1947 drama turns the air blue with sadomasochistic talk of body parts and bodily functions. And yet the point is that almost nothing actually happens. Most of what you see and hear is a charade - a vengeful, sexually charged theatre of make-believe cooked up by two sibling maids who enact their daily fantasy of bumping off their wealthy mistress but crucially fail to do so. By casting Fresh Meat's Zawe Ashton and Uzo Aduba, aka Crazy Eyes from Orange Is The New Black, as the two servants for whom extreme role-play is their only meaningful form of self-empowerment, director Jamie Lloyd makes Genet's drama a modern American story of race and inequality rather than one of merely class. The excellent Ashton and the even better Aduba are wonderful to watch as they flounce and pretend to fornicate in their mistress's clothes. Aduba's Solange is highly physical and sexually aggressive and Ashton's Claire is gobby yet more vulnerable. By contrast, Downton Abbey's Laura Carmichael is a deliberately surreal figure as the Mistress - a figment of a fashion designer's imagination clad in absurd clobber who walks on stage as though strutting down a catwalk. Her monied estrangement from reality is a cruel inversion of Solange and Claire's world. Lloyd uses a translation by Andrew Upton whose letter 'c' probably no longer works on his computer, so often does the c-word crop up. It's far from subtle but then, nor is Genet's drama. In fact, it's essentially a rant but Lloyd punchily suggests it's the rant of America's 99 per cent." The London Metro
The Maids in London at the Trafalagr Studios previewed from 20 February 2016, opened on 29 February 2016 and closed on 1 May 2016.