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Murder, mayhem, and a naughty French maid or two… no, it’s not the implausible plotline of a daytime soap, but rather the true crime story of the Papin sisters upon which French playwright Jean Genet’s The Maids is based. Considered his theatrical masterpiece, Genet’s decadent language and anti-bourgeois radicalism is set to play out in the intimate TAP Gallery as of next week. Director Steve Hopley tells us more.

The play is set in 1930s Paris and explores the – sometimes devastating – effects the shackles of servitude can have. How relevant is this message for Sydney 2012? I haven’t changed the text and don’t feel it’s necessary to. The master-servant relationship has any number of parallels in our everyday lives, from the parent-child relationship, to the teacher-student relationship, to – of course – the relationship between employer and employee. Anyone who has found themselves in a hierarchical situation of any kind – and I don’t think there’s anyone who can say otherwise – can empathise with the hopelessness and the indignation of the maids.

Claire and Solange … the archetype of the naughty maid or something more? Claire and Solange are indeed naughty maids, playing in the Madame’s room and wearing her dresses while she’s out. But they’re also a great deal more than that. Depending on your point of view, they might be the downtrodden in the grips of revolution, the psychological expression of an society that oppresses their every desire, or the very incarnation of evil itself. And, of course, we can’t forget that they are based on real people: the murderous Papin sisters.

Genet himself had a turbulent life – from a vagrant childhood to imprisonment for prostitution. How much do you think the struggles in The Maids reflected his own experiences?
Genet’s works are very sexual, and very much about power and status. The power games he would’ve experienced as a prostitute, with the police, in the courts, and as an inmate in prison, both with the guards and other prisoners, are palpable within the master-servant relationships he builds into the play.

A favourite line? “Servants ooze. They’re a foul effluvium drifting through our rooms and hallways, seeping into us, entering our mouths, corrupting us.”

Mar 13-18, TAP Gallery, 278 Palmer St, Darlinghurst, $15-25, 1300 GETTIX,

GIVEAWAY! Fancy a slice of this sizzling stage action? We have five double passes for March 13th up for grabs – email all your contact details to by midday, Monday 12th March for a chance at the prize.