Theatre in Wales

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The world premiere of playing ‘the maids’     

The world premiere of playing ‘the maids’ Amidst austerity, who is smiling now? Who moves whom? An international ensemble of award-winning artists from Wales, Ireland, Korea, and Singapore explore the dynamics of servitude in this unique theatre production, inspired by Jean Genet’s classic, The Maids.

Internationally known Wales-based director Phillip Zarrilli and award-winning playwright, Kaite O’Reilly guide two pairs of sister-maids (Irish and Korean), a Chinese ‘madame’, a sound artist, and a cellist as they weave together a rich tapestry of music, new text, movement, and gestural languages to create a compelling theatrical experience.

playing ‘the maids’ is a completely new co-created performance that questions power, wealth as privilege, and the politics of intimacy in a globalized world. The performance weaves together text in English, Chinese, Korean, and Gaelic (with sur-titles) and brings together The Llanarth Group (Wales), GAITKRASH (Ireland), Theatre P’yut (Korea) and Singaporean performer Jing Hong Okorn-Kuo for the first time.

Kaite O’Reilly said: “Working as the dramaturg has been fascinating, discovering parallels and counterpoints between the different cultures working so amicably in this collaboration. The sense of boom and bust, bankrupted 'old' world of Europe and the 'new' wealth of super-power China has been marked. The more we moved away from the text and into country and culture-specific material, the closer and more apt the themes of Genet's play became: power, moneyed privilege, notions of beauty and the ideal female form, the chasm between the independently wealthy and those who work for a living…So many aspects of the original hold great resonance for our times.”

Director Phillip Zarrilli said: “In 2010, when we initiated our collaborative process, we agreed to use Genet’s play as a ‘foil’—a beginning point for responding in new ways to the powerful issues that underlie the play. Some of the alternative ways of seeing and responding to the issues of status, power, and control in playing ‘the maids’ include the extreme austerity prompted by the failure of the big banks during the economic downturn, the striking shift in wealth and contrast between EU/UK austerity contrasted with the continuing accumulation of wealth in parts of East Asia, and the ways in which tremendous social pressure are manifest in Asia today for women to physically conform to a certain idealized notion of ‘beauty.’”

First produced in 1947, Genet’s The Maids created a scandal for its dark portrayal of working class discontent, sibling dynamics, gender construction, and ritual. Two dispossessed sister-maids, Claire and Solange, work for Madame in an upper class Parisian apartment, nightly engaging in ritual role-play. This completely new co-created performance responds to Genet’s play as it explores key issues from Korean, Chinese/Singaporean, UK and Irish perspectives in this contemporary period of boom and bust.

playing ‘the maids’ premieres in Wales on 19th February and runs until 6th March (various dates and venues)
 
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