Review: playing 'the maids' @ Chapter
The Maids by Jean Genet is a diabolical work of theatre, with a great film version to compliment this. Using the text as a starting point, here the power struggles are transfused with intercultural ideas and demonstrations by the female ensemble of performers. Along with accompanying cello played by Adrian Curtin and sound manipulations by Mick O'Shea the mood was usually focused and complex.
This apparent happening, was a shock to the system in its directness, yet also for its mighty translucency. The theme of guilt seemed to hover over the proceedings like a massive guillotine, ready to fall at random intervals. I'm so glad I took part in The Exception and the Rule with Karen Mirza and Brad Butler last year (part of Artes Mundi). It allowed be to better understand the techniques of Alexander Boal, his Theatre of the Oppressed. So here, I was able to decipher aspects of the experience, the women of the show conveying greats representations of power, or lack of.
In a blistering moment, one of the Korean performers sat and expressed (in her native language) the demands women must face in a culture of split perspectives. With tears forming in her eyes, you really felt this to be of the utmost truth, as one of the Irish actresses then translated it into English for us. Another striking moment when Jing Hong Okorn-Kuo as the Madam, had to resist and confront flailing left hand movements, as if her sub conscience was intending to come out.
The ending with a puppet looking like a cross between a geisha and Shaye Saint John was touching and profound. As the ladies move the puppet, as it asks the repeated question of "Why do you look at me as if I'm moving?". The response is "it's because I am being pushed" with the puppet pacing in the air as the women circle till lights dim. A memorable and moving moment.
A heady mix of Genet, Boal, John Cage, Korean, Irish, Maria Callas and even Karaoke.
playing 'the maids' continues at Chapter Arts Centre until Saturday 28th February, with a performance at Theatr Brycheiniog on Thursday 26th February. Also at Aberystwyth Arts Centre Friday 6th March.
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Photo Credit: Ger Fitzgibbon/Kaite O'Reilly