Tag Archives: The Maids

The Maids – Hizmetçiler

Hen and Chickens Theatre

The Maids

The Maids / Hizmetçiler

Hen and Chickens Theatre

Reviewed – 15th January 2020


“this shallow and melodramatic take on the play adds nothing to Genet’s original text”


The Maids is a French play, written by Jean Genet and first performed in 1947, about two housemaids – sisters – who have created a sado-masochistic world through which they devise rituals around the fantasy of killing their mistress. This Turkish production has ‘updated’ the story to contemporary London, and the maids mostly speak their native language, apart from when speaking to their off-stage mistress. Their is scope here for a fairly devastating look at the unseen slavery in the houses of the London super-rich, but, alas, this shallow and melodramatic take on the play adds nothing to Genet’s original text, and instead takes away a great deal.

The Maids is a difficult play to stage well; both its emotions and its language are heightened to a degree that removes it from the naturalistic. We are in a claustrophobic imaginary world of sex and power, in which the language continually unsettles, by endlessly see-sawing from overblown Baudelairian symbolism to the filthiest street slang imaginable. The language is essential to the understanding of this play, as it is the oral manifestation of the extraordinary secret world which the sisters have built for themselves over years of living together in stifling emotional deprivation; so it is a nigh on impossible job to engage an audience in this world when 90% of the script (for the Brits in the audience) is read in surtitles, as here. Turkish is a beautiful, rich, expressive language but, in a small pub theatre in London, it seems an exceptionally large ask to require the performers to battle through such a particularly demanding French text for what will inevitably be a largely British audience. It is fantastic to hear other languages spoken on our stages – London is a polyglot city after all – but why not a Turkish play? There seemed no compelling drive to tell this particular story; if there was, it was certainly lost in translation.

The two performers were exhausting to watch, mainly because they were breathless throughout. Relentless panting is neither sexy nor emotionally intense, and it became tedious very quickly indeed. Given that this production chose a difficult language path, it particularly behoved the director to help the performers find a rich physical language to help them tell this story. Frustratingly, the movement was repetitive and full of cliche; entirely devoid of danger or tension. The sisters’ relationship was completely dead; devoid of the bedrock of love and companionship which has slowly morphed into this twisted game of power and desire. Too often, the actors felt marooned on stage without any sense of narrative purpose, and attempted to fill this emptiness by over-emoting. Unfortunately this only added to the tawdry, ghost-train atmosphere supplied by the unhelpful sound and lighting design. The off-stage voice of the mistress was curiously atonal and one-note, and overall the production ended up as nothing more than a dispiriting melodrama, with nothing to tell us.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw


The Maids / Hizmetçiler

Hen and Chickens Theatre


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
I Will Miss you When You’re Gone | ★★½ | September 2018
Mojo | ★★ | November 2018
Hawk | ★★★ | December 2018
Not Quite | ★★★ | February 2019
The First Modern Man | ★★★ | February 2019
The Dysfunckshonalz! | ★★★★★ | May 2019
No One Likes Us | ★★★ | August 2019
Scenic Reality | | August 2019
A Great Big Sigh | ★★★ | September 2019
The Improvised Shakespeare Show | ★★★ | October 2019


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February 28th – March 11th

Theatre N16

A new play about Taylor Swift, Instagram and having no money


Swifties is a bold new adaptation of Jean Genet’s play The Maids, exploring the alienating and destructive effect that poverty, celebrity fetishism and social media can have on the lives of normal people. Swifties is written by Tom Stenton and directed by Luke Davies (The Chemsex Monologues, The HIV Monologues).

Yasmin and Nina work in an Amazon “fulfilment centre”. They live in Luton, the birthplace of Britain First. And they are Taylor Swift’s biggest fans. Ever. Their ultimate dream is to be a part of Tay Tay’s famous ‘girl squad’. But the closer they get to realising that dream, the blurrier the line between fantasy and reality becomes.

Swifties stars Isabella Niloufar and Tanya Cubric.

Isabella has just been announced as the lead in Salome, directed by Yaël Farber, playing at the National Theatre through May-July 2017.

Tanya recently starred in the Sky Atlantic adaptation of The Tunnel (2016).




February 28th 2017 – March 11th

Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm



Theatre N16,

The Bedford Pub, 77 Bedford Hill, London SW12 9HD




£12 (£10 concessions)

Theatre N16