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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Maids, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Two stars

THE class war isn't over yet. Just ask the House of Commons catering staff whom MP Christopher Chope referred to as "servants" last week. Let's hope they don't react like the sisters in Jean Genet's The Maids, so damaged by the social pecking order that they spend half their time plotting to murder their mistress, and the other half indulging in cruel master-servant role‑playing fantasies.

In this all-male production, director Stewart Laing makes the connection between Genet's outsider status and the rock'n'roll spirit he inspired. It begins with actors Samuel Keefe, Ross Mann and Scott Reid getting out electric guitars for a stately rendition of Metallica's One. They intersperse subsequent scenes with Venus in Furs and The Man Who Sold the World. Elsewhere, there are references to Nirvana and Take That, and the show ends with a massive pin-up of the actors in boyband pose.

What's disappointing is the lack of rock'n'roll dynamics in the performances themselves. Laing reminds us that Genet paved the way for the danger of the Velvet Underground, the shape-shifting charisma of David Bowie and the histrionics of Metallica, yet his actors show none of those qualities. Worse, they make a simple story hard to follow, owing to their monotone delivery.

This is a shame because there's lots to love about Laing's production. His decision to avoid camp should, in theory, have given the play a pansexual ambiguity. This is the theatre where the flamboyant Lindsay Kemp, mentor to Bowie, staged the play in 1971, but Laing's version is free of drag-queen flouncing. Though it's not clear what has replaced it, the show offers many entertaining surprises such as the clip of a Genet interview and, midway through, a question-and-answer session with the director. If only the bold production ideas were equalled by the performances.
© Mark Fisher, 2013 (Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan)

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