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The Maids

Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh
Three stars

Judging by the level of activity at Assembly Roxy just now, one could be forgiven for presuming Edinburgh Festival Fringe season had come even earlier than usual. In actual fact the seventeen shows crammed in across three spaces in the Venue over the next few days make up the second Formation festival. Founded by the Edinburgh-based Annexe Repertory Theatre earlier this year, Formation is designed to provide a platform for some of the city’s younger theatre companies. It also fills the void left by the demise of Discover 21, the bijou basement space formerly housed in St Margaret’s House.

While much of the programme focuses on new work, including spoken-word and script-in-hand scratch performances, this time out Formation is also looking at the edgier end of the classical canon. In this way, Jean Genet’s three-handed look at power, class and below-stairs frustration lends itself naturally to such intimate productions as the one director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir has pulled together. Having such a young cast play the two maids who play-act killing their mistress every day too lends an extra potency to the play’s brutal dissection of their Madame’s everyday privilege. As sisters Solange and Claire, they try on long-envied personalities using jewel-studded masks as much as lavish remnants from their mistress’s wardrobe.

Heather Milne and Abigail Sinclair revel in the opportunity to be so out-and-out poisonous as Solange and Claire, even as they are bought off by Christine Koudreiko’s Madame with the furs and finery they have already privately taken advantage of. It is as if the sisters are occupying a bunker-like boudoir not even murder can free them from, while Madame can swan off on a whim to meet her lover, who has just been released from prison.

Running over a whip-smart and elegant eighty minutes, Sigfusdottir’s production goes straight for the jugular without fuss. Even as the siblings skirt around the consequences of whatever action they might take, the result draws out all the unfulfilled desire that forms the heart of a vicious and intense study of how the other half lives and dies.

The Herald, July 9th 2018
Ends





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