Writer: Jean Genet
Director: Jesse Haughton-Shaw
Reviewer: Jon Wainwright
Yellow Marigolds are an odd sort of glove for the Maid to be wearing in the bedroom, especially while the Mistress is at her table getting ready. Still, the Mistress’s reaction seems excessive: she complains that Solange – or is it Claire? – is contaminating the room with her “gobs of spit” and tells her she’s a “great lump of fat”.
Of course, none of this is really happening: the Maids are rôle playing, like children dressing up in their mother’s clothes, only there’s little that’s playful here. This production does well to create a sense of jeopardy and sustain a modicum of suspense – will they be found out and will they carry out their plan? – but the three actors are condemned to the treadmill of Genet’s original. Even with Martin Crimp’s lively translation, the play feels too long and to be going round in circles.
We suspect the Mistress may not be the Mistress when the Maid contradicts her choice of white dress: the Mistress, according to the Maid, will wear the red dress. This is their ritual, and there seems to be a script the sisters are following. The relief that it isn’t real, that this isn’t an actual power relationship being played out, doesn’t last long. Most performances contain an element of truth, so, when the real Mistress arrives and behaves in a civil and even friendly manner, we wonder how much is dissimulation.
For absurdist drama there’s not much to raise a smile, and by the time the sisters are talking of “conspiring with the wind” we’re hoping one of them will get a move on and drink the cup of camomile tea.
Runs until 22nd August