By Jean Genet
Translated by Martin Crimp
HOME, 29 November 2018
Two maids are in thrall to their Mistress.
So much so that, while she is out and about, they – the sisters (nuns?) Claire (Jake Fairbrother) and Solange (Luke Mullins) – role-play, with each taking the role of the Mistress in turn. Their game, never entirely innocent, becomes increasingly sinister, more and more extreme…
This mesmerising version of the play, crisply translated by Martin Crimp, takes you right into the heart of Genet’s world. There are allusions to Miracle of the Rose at the start and throughout, and like in that novel, so here too, fantasy isn’t an escape from oppression but a displacement of it.
I was surprised to find HOME’s Theatre 1 transformed into a theatre in the round (with video sometimes used for close-ups) and was unsure about the reason for this. Then I saw the audience opposite me ‘lit up’ at a certain point, looking for all the world like the Apostles at the Last Supper (think: Andrea del Sarto’s effort at the Vallombrosan Abbey), Believers hungry for sacrifice and spectacle. And anyway decided it worked.
Actually, there are a lot of Catholic tropes in Genet – as Sartre recognised in his book on him – and this play, while on one level a sordid crime drama, offers plenty of scope for piety, ecstasy and debasement. Like the Maid of Orleans, these maids too are saints – of a sort. They suffer torment. They lament their fate. They glorify their Mistress, and even coronate Her: as Lorenzo Monaco coronated the Virgin in the painting that provided the inspiration for the EU flag.
The Maids is at HOME until 1 December, details here.