The Maids

Oct 13rd, 2015

  • We were told that we will direct and perform ‘the Maids’.
  • Our practice director’s note will be based on this.


The maids (Les Bonnes) is a play directed by theFrench dramatist Jean Genet. The play  reputedly based on the real-life story of the Papin sisters, who kiled their mistress and her daughter in 1933. The play was presented in Paris in 1947 by the Théâtre de l’Athénée, under the directing of Louis Jouvet. When the play was first disclosed to the public, it created a scandal because of its dark and explicit portrayal. The film of the same name was reproduced in 1974 by the director by Christopher Miles.

Story Plot.

Solange and Clarie are sisters who serve for their madame as maids. Their sadomasochistic personality leads them to plot the murder of their madame and simulate it in the form of role-playing. Even though they have done the ritual countless time by alternating roles, they always fail to reach the peak- the killing of Madame.

Except from the Review about The Maids (1975, Film)


“Though nothing much has been added by this mildly cinematic treatment, it is more important that nothing has been lost. This preserves the essential quality of the play, which is that of a series of performances designed not to tell a story or convince us of narrative truth, but to speculate on illusion, on the relationship between the looks of things and the reality.

Each character is a reflection of the other’s wishes. Solange and Claire exist only in terms of the sado-masochistic relationship that binds them to each other and to Madame, who is, in turn, their creation. The three actresses have a superb time giving life to this wild riddle, missing none of the sometimes caustic, sometimes matter-of-fact humor that Sartre never takes time to ponder in his preface, but which is essential to Genet’s work and to this film. (Canby, 1975)”


How the Maids was reproduced by different theatre companies?

The maids, Cate Blanchett
The maids, Cate Blanchett



The maids: they usually wear lace or the typical maid costume ; monotonous color such as black and white

Madame: luxurious outlook, sometimes glowing, beads studded on clothes, jewels

Set design:

Dark set & lighting(the lighting is just to make actors visible; not too bright), antique furniture, mirror is a must

Intercultural exploration of the Maids

The Watermans Theatre (by Samir Bhamra- Kenyan born British Indian director at Phizzical Production)
The Watermans Theatre (by Samir Bhamra- Kenyan born British Indian director at Phizzical Production)
1Maids2014 043crop
Cross-cultural collaboration

“Although it name-checks the classic modernist text, playing ‘The Maids’ is an intercultural exploration of the themes, relationships, and power dynamics offered in the source text from the different social, cultural, aesthetic, and artistic perspectives of the creative team.

Playing ‘The Maids’ moves beyond Genet’s meta-theatrical text to create a layered and textured set of dynamics between ‘Madame’ (played by Chinese-Singaporean Jing Okorn-Kuo), and two sets of Irish and Korean sister-maids.

Sibling rivalry and the related intense love/hate dynamics are universal, and in this time of European austerity, and what the media has termed ‘the Asian boom’, the source text’s themes of wealth, privilege, and service have an obvious resonance.(Kaite O’Reilly and Adrian Curtin))”

 My feelings

  • Homosexual
  • Sadomasochism
  • Role-playing
  • Mental disorder
  • Paraphilia(sexual perversion)
  • Frame narrative
  • Grotesque
  • Creepy
  • Psychopathic
  • Meaningless
  • Sexual dominance
  • Authoritative character
  • Social class
  • Frightening
  • Shocking dark
  • Inappropriate to young audience
  • Submission Relationship
  • Tension

As I continued reading the script. I was shocked at the sadomasochistic characteristics of two characters and the way they realize their sexual ideal (role-playing). I wasn’t very aware of Sadomasochism until reading the vivid description on how sadomasochists satisfy their desire through this story. I am now curious of the reason why the playwright selected paraphilia as a predominant theme. I first thought the playwright might be insane or psychopathic, however, it dawned on me that there might be special reasons why the playwright has chosen such unusual topics.

Compared to plays that I’ve performed and seen so far, the Maids is philosophical. Although I am looking forward to direct such dark, mature play that doesn’t seem to target young audience, delivering a profound message behind the play will be challenging.


Intercultural Dramaturgy


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