Playing the maids a uniquely international collaboration

playing the maids

Rehearsals must be fraught with linguistic problems but a truly international dance collaboration is set to open in Cardiff on February 19 when performers from Wales, Korea, Singapore and Ireland join forces for an interpretation of Genet’s The Maids.

Award-winning playwright Kaite O’Reilly and director Phillip Zarrilli have brought together theatre companies The Llanarth Group (Wales), GAITKRASH (Ireland) and Theatre P’yut (Korea) alongside Singaporean performer Jing Hong Okorn-Kuo for the first time.

The international ensemble explore the dynamics of servitude in this unique theatre production called “playing the maids“.

Zarrilli and 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.

The performance weaves together text in English, Chinese, Korean, and Gaelic (with sur-titles).

The Maids

The couple got the production off the ground by using Skype and other technology to communicate with all the companies across the globe.

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 added: “In 2010, when we initiated our collaborative process, we agreed to use Genet’s play as a beginning point for responding in new ways to the powerful issues that underlie the play.

“Some of the alternative ways of 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 a contemporary period of boom and bust.

“playing the maids” tour dates

February 19-21 & February 27-28, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
February 26, Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon
March 6, Aberystwyth Arts Centre

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