Pretty well-Maid


With a basis of sadomasochism and lesbianism, this appeared to fit the bill as to what constitutes a successful production in Oxford.

Based on the chilling story of the Papin sisters, Genet sheds a new light on the plot, keeping the main features of it but altering the final outcome. Genet can be seen to actively try and draw the audience into the created illusion before abruptly dispelling it, leaving the audience with a distinct sense of dissatisfaction.

This production has all the components to be successful; chatting to the cast after it is clear they have done a lot of research into the Papin sisters and understand fully what they are trying to express.

However at points they were unable to fully immerse the audience into the drama, resulting in less of an inquisitive wonderment and more of an absolute confusion at what is taking place.

Both Frances Hackett and Rachel Dedman were solid in their performances, portraying the servants’ state of mind successfully, as well as exploring the role-play of Madame in an enlightening manner. However, it was Roseanna Frascona who pulled the whole performance together, her strong portrayal of Madame making sense of many prior allusions and offering a new dynamic to the piece.

It is possible that more regular changes of pace could distinguish between fantasy and reality more distinctly. Genet is a playwright who enjoys the muted explosion of an anti-climax more than most, but this doesn’t quite come through yet in their portrayal.

Whilst aspects of the play seemed to lack a distinct edge, all the actors were impressive in their expression of individuals who have twisted logic and brutal desires.

All that needs to be found is that je ne sais quoi that will draw the whole production together: this has the potential to be a fantastic play, trapping the audience in the claustrophobic confines of the human mind, but for now ‘potential’ is the operative word.

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