Theatre Review: THE MAIDS – HOME, Manchester

Danny Lee Wynter (the Mistress) and Jake Fairbrother (Claire) in THE MAIDS at HOME Manchester. Photo: Jonathan Keenan

Danny Lee Wynter and Jake Fairbrother in THE MAIDS at HOME Manchester. Photo: Jonathan Keenan

Violently deluded yet brilliantly captivating, THE MAIDS is a dark twisted tale that is bold and unforgettable

Bringing a whole new pallet of colours to the show, director Lily Sykes refreshes THE MAIDS into a story which changes the notion of gender roles and contemporary ideas and steals our attention with intensity, dark humour and a delusional mix of fantasy and reality.

French playwright Jean Genet wrote this psychodrama back in 1947 based on the real-life ‘Papin’ sisters murder case in France in 1933, in which two infamous sisters brutally murdered their employer and her daughter. He loosely explores this in his play through two sadomasochistic sister-housemaids who indulge in subversive roleplays while their mistress is out.

The sisters, Claire (Jake Fairbrother) and Solange (Luke Mullins) slip in and out of their violent and provocative fantasy acts in their mistresses (Danny Lee Wynter) bedroom, making use of her exquisite clothing and make-up. The maids re-enact their everyday lives mixed in with their wildest dreams, which we soon find out is to murder the mistress.

Jake Fairbrother (Claire) and Luke Mullins (Solange) in THE MAIDS at HOME Manchester. Photo Credit: Jonathan Keenan

Jake Fairbrother and Luke Mullins in THE MAIDS at HOME Manchester. Photo Credit: Jonathan Keenan

All three roles are played by men dressed as women. It’s a little bit questionable at first, but before you know it, the actors are well into character and their strong and powerful performances make you forget all about their gender and focus more on the harsh love-hate relationship the sisters are throwing around the stage instead.

The staging itself only enhances the performance. HOME’s new addition of a round stage, almost colosseum-like, creates an immersive experience making you feel closer and more a part of the drama. The use of a video camera as a mirror is connected to a screen above the stage which stimulates an extra viewpoint and the kitchen timer in the bedroom, much to the disgust of the mistress, really does give the saying ‘the sands of time’ a new meaning.

We are led to believe, through the sadist games the sisters play, that their mistress is a cruel and harsh leader, and despite her saucy and very pretentious entrance wearing her darkened sunglasses and fur coat, we come to realise she is actually quite sweet and kind to her maids, if not a little delusional herself because of her lover’s arrest. The maids’ quiver at a mere instruction from her and we are left giggling as they attempt to make her drink her ‘chamomile tea’ all while clumsily trying not to reveal their master plan.

Jake Fairbrother, Danny Lee Wynter and Luke Mullins in THE MAIDS at HOME Manchester. Photo Credit: Jonathan Keenan

Jake Fairbrother, Danny Lee Wynter & Luke Mullins in THE MAIDS at HOME. Photo Credit: Jonathan Keenan

We are continuously stuck in-between what is real and what is a twisted delusion. It is a little confusing to get a handle of it all at first but you are all too soon immersed into the storyline, reminding yourself to take a breath and that it is indeed just a play on stage.

Thrilling, intrusive and powerful, the scenes on stage question many different themes and relationships between love/hate, men/women, subjects/objects and of course, mistresses/maids and as director Lily Sykes says “With the political climate in the UK and around the world as it is, a story about two opposing classes, whose antagonism is fuelled by their inability to understand each other, resonates strongly.”

This is a brilliant little-twisted tale which is exceptionally well played out. The actors are buoyant, the staging, props and lighting are genius and enriching and the storyline, dark, bold and unforgettable.

A must-see performance which will surely have you gasping for air at the end of it all.

(5 / 5)

THE MAIDS runs at HOME, Manchester until 1 December 2018.

Lauren is a student journalist and reporter for Mancunian Matters. Originally from Zimbabwe, Lauren has a love for writing and photography. Her hobbies consist of coffee shops, blogging, travel and art and if you can’t find her around, she will most definitely be at the gym!