On paper, Sally Daniels and Anna Pinkstone’s production of The Maids had all the ingredients of a comic farce.
Jonathan Kerridge-Phipps in particular has stuttered and cavorted his way to laughter in several recent productions, and when the lights go up to him arranging a pair of rubber-gloves into a flower – a marigold marigold, perhaps – and wearing a french maid’s dress, more farce of the same order seems inevitable.
However, minutes into his surreal dialogue with Ed Duncan-Smith’s very successfully feminine Claire, it becomes clear that this is not the bawdy drag-fest it first appears.
There are laughs; Tom Powis as Madame is afforded more scope for comedy than the others as his facial hair makes him less convincingly feminine. But this production is a highly surreal, and at times quite disturbing drama about servants’ struggle for power and identity.
Kerridge-Phipps’ performance will surprise anyone who has only seen him play farce. He balances touching tenderness against unbalanced near-insanity with stunning aplomb. His penultimate soliloquy, if anything, casts the rest of the play somewhat in the shade.
The Maids is a strong production which, played very slightly differently, could have become lost either in its farce or its
surreal fantasy. This production avoids falling into either trap, and is very much worth a look this weekend.
The Maids runs from Friday through Sunday at 7:30PM in the Drama Barn.