Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Maids | Trafalgar Studios

The West End is saturated with musicals but when it comes to plays there really isn't a lot to choose from so when I read about The Maids back in November I knew it was something I wanted to see. It's a cast of three women, all of who are famous names: Zawe Ashton (Fresh Meat, Not Safe for Work), Uzo Aduba best known for OITNB, although I saw an understudy who I'll mention later, and Laura Carmichael who was in Downton Abbey. In the run up to seeing the show I'd read a few reviews but overall I wasn't sure what to expect and honestly I was blown away- it's gone straight to the top of my list as the best play I've seen!

I've never been to Trafalgar Studios before so when I was booking my tickets I didn't know how far back we would be. We were seated on the back row but it was a very steep incline (as you can see from the second picture down). Luckily however there were a few empty seats further down and we were offered a free upgrade to front row seats- I was thrilled! The stage was very interesting- a raised box with curtains that lifted on all four sides to reveal the actors on stage. There were also some seats on the opposite side of the stage so the space was used as if it was in the round. The floor was littered with flower petals and compartments on the floor were opened by the actors to reveal props. Halfway through the performance more flower petals rained down onto the stage which was a really beautiful sight. The space was used so cleverly that it felt like the audience was looking through the windows into a room of a house which made for a very intimate performance.

Now let's talk about the play itself: without giving too much away, the plot centres around two maids who fantasise about killing their mistress (played by Carmichael). As I said earlier, I saw Aduba's understudy Chereen Buckley as one of the maids along with Zawe Ashton, who is one of my favourite actresses. I absolutely wouldn't have guessed that Buckley was an understudy had I not known before the show began. Ashton is such a versatile actress and this role is like nothing I've seen her do before. She completely embodied the role of Claire with such intensity that I actually felt genuinely nervous at times with how she was behaving. The play is an hour and forty-five minutes long without an interval and I can totally see why. The two maids were on stage almost constantly, deep in character and the intensity of the show kept building up so much  that to have an interval would have disrupted the flow of the performance.

Having gone in with no expectations I was so pleasantly surprised by the show and I cannot recommend it enough. It's hard to put everything I felt into words but I came out feeling absolutely drained by the emotional intensity but equally impressed by the quality of acting and stage design I had just seen. I am in awe of the actors who put their all into their characters day after day, it must be utterly exhausting! It made a really nice change from the kind of shows I normally see and it's so great to see such an unusual piece of theatre in the West End. The Maids runs at the Trafalgar Studios until the 21st May and you can find tickets here.

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