Wednesday 9 January 2019

"The Maids" staged in Bandra (Mumbai) on 5.1.2019 by Alliance Francaise de Bombay

The horrifying saga of domestic class-conflict

In this transitory world everything is fluid. Either relationship,  ideology or personality or even your identity. You are sometimes someone else and the other person is sometimes you. This would had been normally just an adventure but when you play identities across the power divide the viewer is bond to visualise it as a glimpse of class conflict.

The plot is based on a true murder story of France that happened in 1933. While the employer Madam is out of the house, the two maids Solange and Claire play roles of each other and also of Madam who lies on an altogether different side of the power game. The play passes through the different layers of sadomasochism where a person finds gratification in other's  sufferings in an excessively cruel manner. Though this gory role-play begins in a fantasy it ends in a real world resulting into the murder of the madam after her return.

Though ostensibly madam is enamoured to the beauty of one of the maid, she has no feel for her in reality. No love on this earth goes beyond the class. In her views the maids are just an entourage., a grossly inferior lot. She praises the beauty of Claire but just the next moment passes such remarks that riddles her dignity. The condition of Solange is even worse. And despicable Madam is such a bourgeois woman who is disposed to deduct the salary of her housemaid just for a little inadvertent damage by her. Oh! the poor people are meant only to suffer at the hands of nouveau riche.

Both of them enjoy becoming the Madam in turns and the other has to obey her orders. Some issues are raised that are too personal in nature  and there is an insinuation of incestuous relationship also  between the two housemaids. A dimension of wantonness is also emphatic so that the two may live freely with each other enjoying the assets of Madam. 

The awe of one's employer still remains alive and they hear the bell rung by the madam still after her murder. In the last scene the head of madam is crouching over her table and she is motionless in her chair whereas the two maids are reveling cuddled with each other.

The viewers were dispersed on 360 degree all around the acting space. The sitting arrangement as well as the design of property distribution over the acting platform were haphazard. The whole space in the hall was congested and the ambiance was uncomfortable with prickling blue and yellow lights. But this all was necessary to let the audience go along with the play.

Sharmila Velaskar Kadne, Manali Gheewala and Manali Kale were in the roles of the Madame, Salonge and Clair. The play was based more on talking to oneself than the dialogues face-to-face with someone. The dilemma within and the subconscious wild dreams ruled over the scene almost throughout the play and the credit goes to the director Omkar Bhatkar. The maid with bulky body showed her mettle in brilliant acting. The other maid also gave a good show. Whereas the horrific style of one stunned everyone the the gestures with noble smile of another charmed everybody. 

Pooja Gosavi and Viren Gamre also supported from the backstage.

The novel written by Jean Genet is an exhaustive one and the detail through which it has been carried out is awe aspiring. There are some 32 threads of monologues in the the novel as the director Omkar Bhatkar stated. Their are to perform there the same play picking up different set of 7-8 threads each time with a different set of actors and in an absolutely different theme. This one was sadomasochist one whereas two other presentations of thriller and bizarreness would be performed on subsequent days. 

Omkar Bhatkar must be thanked to choose this play which is  is challenging right from the bottom up to the brim. He mainly concentrates on serving the different shades of French classics. This show was just another feather in his cap.
Review by - Hemant Das 'Him'
Photographs - Bejod India blog
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