The Maids (Jean Genet, translated by Benedict Andrews and Andre Upton): Sydney Theatre Company at the Sydney Theatre

Great performances, but the play didn’t really work for me

I didn’t actually know anything much about this play before seeing it. And, to be honest, the play – as a play – didn’t really do a huge amount for me.

But the performances were amazing. Seeing Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert together on stage was incredible, and they went through so many changes of mood and pace and tone that we saw a truly bravura performance from each of them. (I did have a little bit of trouble with Isabelle Huppert, because I always find accents challenging, and the dialogue was sometimes at such a pace that I missed some of it.) But equally impressive was that Elizabeth Debicki, in the smaller but key role of ‘Mistress’, was able to hold her own with two such powerful presences. Obviously this was partly due to professional and generous performances by the two stars, who were willing and able to step back when the play called for someone else to take the centre. But when Elizabeth Debicki was the focus, she truly owned the stage.

They also took the technically interesting approach of having a large video screen above the stage, displaying feeds from various cameras around the stage. Some of these were fixed – e.g. in the mirror, showing closeups of the actors when they were using it – but some focused on different places, ranging from closeups of flowers on the floor to a shot from the ceiling when Isabelle Huppert was cavorting on the bed. Apparently they didn’t always follow the same cues every night – though presumably some of them were fairly constant. It added an interesting extra dimension to the production.

Favourite moment

I actually can’t think of any one line or scene that particularly stood out to me.

Bechdal test

Well, duh. Only three characters, all female (although technically only two of them actually had names). Some of the time was spent talking about a man (the unseen ‘Master’) but mostly not.



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