Bare bums and bricks, some rock and roll, elaborate drop cloths, even a shower of bodily fluids reminiscent of in-yer-face theatre. Director Stewart Laing manages to pack in everything you might expect to see in an entire season at the Citizens Theatre, including the post-show Q&A, in this extraordinary and demanding interpretation of Jean Genet’s The Maids.
Laing’s production constantly teases and plays with its audience. It’s a skillful seduction which manages to get the audience on side from the top of the show. The soft, nude-coloured curtains, like the billowing bloomers of some luxurious giantess, get their own round of applause as they rise and fall again on an empty stage. The curtains lift coyly at ankle height, flirtaously caressing performers and set as they lazily drags back and forth across the large, sparse stage. They waltz with rows of harsh strip lighting that drop in and out of the action, which unfolds in increasingly surprising ways. The show changes with each scene, the methods of production foregrounded more and more as the evening progresses.
Genet’s tale of two maids who plot to deal their mistress a violent end is a solid benchmark in experimental theatre and on students’ reading lists. Laing takes Genet’s play and drop kicks it into an imaginative, evocative new realm which further deconstructs the text into a variety performance of music, interview, rehearsed readings and continually unexpected interludes.
Scott Reid and Ross Mann as the jealous maids and Samuel Keefe as a delightfully patronising mistress in a parka and Hello Kitty night shirt rock out with, yes, their cocks out in the midst of this chameleon of a production. The three performers, each with one foot just out of drama school and the other quite comfortably on one of Scotland’s most celebrated stages, hammer out classic rock riffs on electric guitars like angry teens stuck in their bedrooms. The furious sound only comes together when the three work together. Its a neat analogy between the three as performers and the characters they play who define themselves in position to others.
Laing’s playful and brave approach is an assured, intelligent example of the kind of work more often seen in the fringes of Scottish theatre. The Maids is a production that will rattle the bones of the next generation of theatre makers, surprise and delight the open-minded, and infuriate those who didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for.
In choosing risky approaches with confidence and stylish aplomb, Laing and company have taken one for the team and created solid justification for work which pushes us to reassess what we expect from a night out at the theatre.
The Maids is playing at Citizens Theatre until 2 Feburary. For more information and tickets, click here.