Harrogate Theatre, Friday 13th May, 2016.
By far the most impressive aspect of this Square Peg Theatre and Harrogate Theatre production are the shifts in perspective. The fact that the cast perform so much of the script directly towards the audience allows us the privileged position of being on the receiving end of every shifting emotion. For a play drenched in erratic, disturbing shifts in the dynamics of the sisters’ relationship, this device is an excellent choice.
Katie Robinson and Olivia Sweeney play sisters Solange and Claire. Katie’s performance as Solange is fantastically uncomfortable and arrestingly sensitive. Those chaotic monologues betraying her apparent growing psychosis are brilliantly played and particularly impressive for those in her eye line as she spits her venom at imaginary entities.
Olivia’s performance as Claire, the younger sister battling for some sense of ownership in her helpless situation is equally affecting, with the more sensitive moments in this role allowing her to showcase both malignant rage and great vulnerability – quite a feat in such an intense production with no interval. In her turn, Deborah Pugh’s take on the outlandish, delusional Madame wholly matches her counterparts in their accomplished performances.
The production also impresses through its heavy use of physical theatre with every movement perfectly timed and with very slick transitions throughout. My only real criticism of this production is the lack of interval. While I completely understand the justification of preserving the intensity on stage by not disrupting the action or atmosphere, I did find my attention drifting at times, despite the excellent performances of the actors.
This take on The Maids has plenty of offer with the most impressive features of all being the slick physicality and the brilliant visual of those shifting perspectives.