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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Maids, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

The Maids

Tron, Glasgow
2 out of 5

It is a particularly sour pair of ugly sisters who primp and preen around their mistress's boudoir in this all-male staging of the Jean Genet play for the Glasgay festival. Derek McLuckie's lanky, shaven-headed Solange and Wullie Brennan's portly, shuffling Claire are two working-class Glasgow housekeepers whose hatred of their place in the social pecking order has become a poison that eats away at them.

The maids have murderous designs on Richard Pears's Madame, but it is they themselves who seem to be the real victims. They are bitter narcissists, joylessly dressing up in their employer's clothes in ritualistic role-play games that have lost all meaning.

Sadly, the joylessness spills over into the production itself. The idea of men acting like women acting like their social superiors should be ripe with camp irony and subversive delight. But the performances are so laden with self-hatred and gloominess, so bereft of the wit and warmth that might make us want to spend time with these characters, that the play becomes a trial. Lines that could sparkle are delivered with a note of grumbling frustration, giving us pure moroseness instead of black comedy.

Director Pauline Goldsmith enlivens the proceedings with a continual swirl of movement around Colin O'Hara's minimalist Japanese set. The actors, however, complicate matters by fluctuating their delivery with little regard to meaning. McLuckie in particular peppers his performance with curious physical-theatre gestures, jutting out his tongue, giving high kicks and striking vampish poses with his long arms, while switching his tone from effeminate treble to brutish bass by the line. You see an actor working hard but communicating little, adding extra layers that puzzle rather than amuse, not least because he and Brennan make the relationship between the sisters so hard to pin down. The production comes across as purposeless and leaves you deflated.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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Swollen Foot said...

Hi Mark, I'm a follower of your blog but I don't think I've ever commented, so this seems cheeky but I was wondering if you could help me! I'm going to be in Edinburgh Dec 29-Jan 2nd and I was hoping to catch a play whilst up there, but all of the theatres I've looked at seem to be only doing pantomime... I'm not holding out hope, especially because of the timing, but as an Edinburgh theatre 'insider', do you know of any Edinburgh theatres that are doing plays OTHER than panto over this period? Little arts venues that I might've missed included in that! Thank you very much. :)

Mark Fisher said...

Hi, thanks for writing.

Once the Three Musketeers finishes at the Traverse on Christmas Eve, I think the only non-Christmas show is the Secret Garden at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, a family show.

But don't write off panto. Any serious student of theatre will learn loads from watching Andy Gray and Allan Stewart at the King's (as well as having a great time). And, in the Christmas show category, the Snow Queen at the Royal Lyceum is likely to be good.

Swollen Foot said...

Thanks! That's appreciated :)