Dynamic reworking of Jean Genet's most famous play from Citizens Theatre
It’s not often that you get to see both the writer and director appearing as themselves in a revival of a classic play – particularly when the playwright has been dead for over 25 years. But Stewart Laing’s reworking of The Maids for Citizens Theatre is no traditionalist adaptation of Jean Genet’s most famous work. Unsurprisingly, it was the great French controversialist himself (popping up here via a terse interview for an edition of the BBC’s Arena) who proposed that the three leads in his tale of two sisters who indulge in increasingly brutal S&M fantasies culminating in the murder of their mistress, should be played by young men. Laing’s decision to follow through on this suggestion permits a disarming, sometimes sexy, sometimes grotesque and often very funny examination of masculinity and role-playing that’s also keenly aware of how money and sex can inspire violent desire and resentment.
In his drive to emphasise the theatricality of the piece Laing has experimented with a mix of design elements, from a stripped stage to a naturalistic hotel room set, and each section is played against a different backdrop, with the director himself appearing in one fabulously witty segment to take questions from the audience. Not all of these experiments work: one scene presented in the form of a script reading falls rather flat. But the performances from the two young leads (Ross Mann and Scott Reid) are so dynamic that they quickly dispel any fears that this production is just a coldly academic exercise.